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As Washington waits for Mueller, 'everything about this is political'

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Image: Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., appears on "Meet The Press" on Feb. 24, 201
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., appears on "Meet The Press" on Feb. 24, 2019. -
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WASHINGTON — With special counsel Robert Mueller reportedly moving into the final stages of his Russian investigation, there's little certainty as to how the next steps might play out.

A panel of legal experts and experienced lawmakers broke down the myriad of possible outcomes for Mueller's investigation on Sunday's "Meet the Press," discussing the effect the long investigation has had on the hyper-partisanship in government.

"The question of the Russian interference and the possibility of collusion by the president and his people has twisted our politics into something unrecognizable for the last two years, including behavior on the part of the president — attacking the FBI, attacking Bob Mueller," Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said.

"Everything about this is political. The way to end that is for the truth to be out there."

"If that truth indicates President Trump committed no crime, impeachable or otherwise, so be it. If it indicates he did, that's a much more complicated world. But first and foremost, given that we've been on the edge of seats for the last two years on this issue, everyone in this country needs to know what happened and then we decide how to take it from there."

While the Mueller report isn't expected to be delivered to Attorney General William Barr by the end of this week, an end appears to be coming closer. NBC News reported in December that the report could be submitted as soon as mid-February.

Mueller's office so far has indicted six individuals close to President Trump, and issued indictments against Russian actors as well.

Sol Wisenberg, who served as a deputy independent counsel under Kenneth Starr during the investigation into President Clinton, noted that none of those charges allege any specific campaign collusion with the Russians or criminal conspiracy with the Trump presidential campaign.

"There are a lot of people who have pleaded guilty. But given Mueller's original charge, there is no American citizen living here, nobody associated with the Trump campaign, that's been indicted for criminally conspiring with the Russians in respect to that campaign," he said.

For example, the charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort could put him in jail for the rest of his life, but those alleged crimes include tax fraud, obstruction and other crimes unrelated to his time with Trump. And while Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes related to the campaign, those charges are not related to anything to do with Russia, even as lawmakers and investigators appear to be looking into Cohen's role negotiating the rights to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign.

But Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general who helped to write the special counsel regulations, said that the absence of direct collusion indictments doesn't mean Mueller sees nothing about which to be concerned. Charges against Trump ally Roger Stone deal with his relationship with WikiLeaks, which released Democratic emails hacked by Russia to help Trump's bid. And multiple Trump associates have pleaded guilty to lying about contacts with Russians.

"We are starting to already seen the outlines of a Mueller report that does look like he is alleging some sort of conspiracy," he said, before turning Trump's criticism of the investigation back on him.

"If this is a 'witchhunt', Mueller has found a coven at this point."