When Robert Mueller spoke publicly this week for the first time since his appointment as special counsel, he said that his report released in April speaks for itself and that he was resigning from the Justice Department to return to private life. But while Mueller may have finished his job, the impact of his work will linger.
The legacy of Mueller’s investigation will continue to affect Donald Trump for the rest of his presidency and beyond. Here are all the ways that Trump and his Administration will have to deal with the fallout from the Russia investigation.
Some Mueller-inspired investigations are still ongoing
Mueller’s team wrote in their 448-page report that they referred 14 cases of “potential criminal activity” to other Justice Department offices. While many of those cases were redacted, some of them, such as the trial of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, are proceeding publicly.
Before the Mueller probe wrapped up, Stone was charged with lying to Congress and obstructing its Russia investigation. He pled not guilty in January, and his case is being handled by prosecutors in Washington, with a trial set for later this year.
Other ongoing cases that grew out of evidence Mueller uncovered include investigations into the funding of Trump’s campaign super PAC, the funding of his inauguration and potential Middle Eastern influence in Washington.
These investigations can be both good news and bad news for the President, says Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
“The good news is that he very much enjoys being able to pivot off it and counterpoint off it because it boosts his base,” Perry told TIME. But the bad news, she says, is the best comparison for Trump’s presidency is now to Warren Harding’s administration and the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s. “When people think of Harding they think of corruption,” Perry says. “This kind of report and this kind of cloud hanging over the 2016 election will haunt this person and this presidency forever.”
Trump and his allies face other criminal and Congressional investigations
Beyond the investigations directly linked to Mueller, Trump and people associated with him still face more than a dozen other probes. Wired recently counted 16 active investigations into Trumpworld, and Congress is pursuing its own investigations as well.
During his remarks on Wednesday, Mueller emphasized that he did not make a determination about whether Trump committed a crime because of the Justice Department precedent that a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while in office. But he also reiterated that Congress can act in a way he could not, giving lawmakers an invitation to pursue further questions and potentially start impeachment proceedings.
Some Democrats in Congress had already called for Trump’s impeachment, and Mueller’s statement led more to join their ranks, including a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Trump responded to all this in his usual fashion, first insisting that “the case is closed!” and then issuing a series of angry tweets. This followed his typical pattern, according to Jennifer Mercieca, an expert on political rhetoric at Texas A&M University who has studied Trump’s communication.
“He uses a combination of flat out denial—it didn’t happen—with ad hominem attacks and appeals to hypocrisy, trying to undermine the investigators,” she said. “If the Democrats decided to impeach or to proceed in ways that are more aggressive, then of course he’ll ratchet up his aggression.”
As Congress conducts more hearings and issues more subpoenas, lawmakers are sure to refer directly to the findings in Mueller’s report. This will keep Mueller and the Russia investigation in the news and likely continue affecting Trump’s reactions, Mercieca says.
Mueller’s findings have changed the debate
Mueller’s report has forced Trump to acknowledge Russia’s impact on the election. Back in 2016, Trump initially denied that Russia was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee and his opponent Hillary Clinton. Even as he entered the White House and U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the election, Trump often clashed with the intelligence community and expressed skepticism about its findings. The President did eventually acknowledge Russia’s meddling in the election, though he has gone back and forth on this throughout his time in office.
When Mueller’s report was published in April, it also concluded that Russia interfered in the election explicitly to help Trump. However, the President focused on the conclusion that he did not collaborate with Russia and declared himself exonerated. Still, he kept crying “hoax”.
On Thursday morning, the President for the first time admitted that Russia helped put him in office. “Now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected,” he wrote.
The facts that Mueller laid out are not going away
While the investigation is over, Mueller’s findings may be front of mind for many Americans as the 2020 election draws closer. Cyber-security experts have said that U.S. election systems and presidential campaigns are still vulnerable to attack, and have also warned that Russian trolls are likely to try influencing U.S. elections again.
Trump may also bring up the special counsel as a campaign tactic, says Mercieca. “His base still supports him even though we’ve all read the Mueller report. That idea that he’s a victim seems to play well,” she says.
Trump can’t stop thinking about Mueller
Regardless of the political implications, it’s clear that Trump will not stop talking about Mueller. After Mueller’s statement on Wednesday, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager tried to downplay the speech, arguing it was evidence that the scandal was over.
And yet, Trump tweeted about the Mueller investigation multiple times throughout the day on Thursday. His various messages ranged in tone from celebratory to defiant to outright anger—not exactly the tone of someone prepared to move on.
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