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Acting AG Matt Whitaker: ‘I think’ Mueller probe is ‘close to being completed’

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Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, said Monday that the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is “close to being completed.”

“Right now the investigation is, I think, close to being completed, Whitaker said. “And, I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible.”

Whitaker made the statement during a news conference at which the Justice Department announced it was formally charging the Chinese telecom company Huawei and its CFO with helping banks sidestep sanctions on Iran and for stealing trade secrets.

The FBI has been investigating Russia’s interference in the election since the summer of 2016. As part of the investigation, Mueller is also looking into whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign secretly worked with Moscow to tilt the election in his favor, and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired FBI director James Comey in 2017.

Last week, prosecutors charged the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone with obstruction, false statements, and witness tampering. Legal scholars say more indictments against Stone’s associates will likely be handed down in the coming weeks as well.

Several other Trump associates have also been charged, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, and former campaign aide George Papadopoulos. Dozens of Russian nationals and several Russian entities have also been charged as part of the probe.

Trump is a figure of interest in many threads of the investigation, including Comey’s firing and other reported efforts to hamper the investigation; the Trump Organization’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow; Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee; WikiLeaks’ subsequent dissemination of stolen emails; a meeting between top campaign officials and Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016; and more.

He was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a separate criminal case against his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, brought by the US attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Justice Department veterans say that even if prosecutors have evidence showing that Trump engaged in criminal conduct, it’s unlikely he would be indicted because current Justice Department guidelines say a sitting president cannot be charged.

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