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WASHINGTON — Now that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has concluded, all we can do is wait to see how much of it will end up released publicly. Attorney General William Barr informed the heads of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that he could deliver the “principal conclusions” from the special counsel's report as soon as this weekend.
And while we wait, it’s not a totally crazy idea to take a look at the last report Mueller wrote and released publicly.
That report, released in 2015, was an investigation into Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on video beating his fiancé in a casino elevator in February 2014.
After initial reports of the beating and an internal investigation by the NFL, Rice was suspended for two games and ordered to pay a fine. But months later, after TMZ posted video that showed the brutality of what happened, Rice was fired by the NFL.
The NFL brought in Mueller to find out what the league knew about the beating, and if they’d participated in a cover-up.
Mueller was hired to answer two questions: “whether anyone at the League had received or seen the in-elevator video prior to its public release on September 8; and what other evidence was obtained by, provided to, or available to the League in the course of its investigation.”
While none of the details about the Rice situation mirror the investigation into 2016 election interference, the report Mueller produced for the NFL does provide some insight into how he thinks.
First, the NFL report is very thorough. Mueller details more than 50 interviews his team conducted, the millions of documents they obtained, and the measures they took to figure out if the video had ever been played on an NFL computer.
Take a look at part of the description of how methodically they tried to figure out who from the NFL may have acknowledged receipt of the elevator video before TMZ posted it:
First, we analyzed each of the 1,583 phone calls made from the League’s New York office on April 9. We either called the destination number to verify that the person or organization called was not the source, or we identified the number as belonging to a senior NFL employee, or an owner, coach, or employee of one of the NFL clubs. We also analyzed the League’s phone data in a variety of other ways, looking for noteworthy trends or phone numbers, and found none. Second, we interviewed every female employee or contractor present at the League’s office on April 9.
Second, Mueller stayed within the confines of questions he was hired to answer. This is crucial to what we may see in the Special Counsel’s report. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s assignment to Mueller was to conduct “a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” That was a pretty broad assignment, but over the course of the Russia investigation, Mueller farmed out some of the non-Russia related criminal matters to the Southern District of New York. That could be a signal that the current report will be very focused on election-related conduct.
Third, Mueller didn’t pull any punches in this report, despite the fact that the NFL was his client and everybody knew the Rice report would be released publicly. He calls out the NFL for the steps they didn’t take in their internal investigation. For example, he lists that the league never contacted the police officers who responded to the elevator incident and they never interviewed Rice himself during their internal investigation. Mueller points out these glaring omissions.
Mueller’s last report is almost 100 pages long, but it’s incredibly readable, much like the speaking indictments that have come out of the Special Counsel’s office in the last few years. What that points to is that the final election report, if it’s ever actually released, will be a document that almost any citizen could read, understand, and form opinions from.
This segment originally aired March 22, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.