“Prosecutors don’t act as fact-gatherers for Congress. Congress needs to gather its own facts,” Barrett said. “Congress has lots of tools—government oversight properly belongs to them.”
Read: The House’s latest move could be a big threat to Trump’s presidency
For Republicans in Congress, the effects of the Mueller investigation might be less acute, but they will be similar. Some Republicans have counseled a similar wait-and-see approach to what Mueller produces, and as a group, they’ve tended to downplay the seriousness of the existing evidence. They, too, will be forced to reckon with the president, though the shape and gravity of that reckoning will depend in part on what Mueller brings, and on the fruits of the nascent House investigations.
Trump has raged against Mueller repeatedly in public comments, calling the investigation a “witch hunt.” He has offered conflicting statements on Mueller’s report, tweeting on March 15 that “there should be no Mueller report,” but also saying that he’d leave the decision about releasing details to Barr. On Wednesday, he told reporters, “Let it come out. Let the people see it.”
But the president might find himself missing Mueller more than he expects. Trump has succeeded most in politics when he has had a nemesis to vilify: first Jeb Bush and then Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP primary; then Hillary Clinton in the general election. And he has struggled when he hasn’t had one. His attempts to use Pelosi as a foil failed, both in the 2018 midterms and in the shutdown fight that followed, with disastrous results for him. Mueller has been a useful villain, with Trump spreading lies and distortions about Mueller’s team and work (for example, calling the group led by Mueller, a lifelong Republican, “13 angry Democrats”).
For all of the effects on political actors, Mueller’s fans in the public might take the loss hardest. For this group, the special counsel has become a figure of messianic importance who will deliver the nation from Trump. Some view his promise in straightforward legal or political terms; some have taken it in stranger directions. In a rather more outré offering, Rachel Dodes wrote in Vanity Fair of having a crush on Mueller. “Beautiful Swan, I have to admit that back in the day, if a soothsayer foretold that I’d fall for the consummate G-man, I would have poured bong water on their head and vomited on their loafers,” she wrote. “Those were different times and, admittedly, I was a fool. In this moment of rampant debauchery and freeloading, your patrician uprightness, by contrast, seems almost radical.”
Despite the years of anticipation, experts predict that Mueller’s report is more likely to be a short summary than a long, devastating narrative à la Bill Clinton adversary Ken Starr. Nor is Mueller likely to stand before the nation and offer a resounding critique of Trump, as then–FBI Director Comey did in July 2016, when he recommended not prosecuting Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server but criticized her email practices. The conclusion of Mueller’s work will mean a loss of purpose and a new realization of the difficulty of removing a president, no matter how square the lead investigator’s jaw.
There are, however, two groups that will greet the conclusion of Mueller’s work with delight. One is people connected to the investigation who have escaped indictment and can begin to cut down on exorbitant legal bills. The other is the reporters who have been on constant high alert for weeks, expecting a report at any moment. None of the others—not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not Trump, and not the Mueller stans—is likely to feel any kinship with those relieved to see Mueller go.