As the New Year approaches, it’s easy for many of us to get sucked into “end of year” lists and the cousin of such articles, the “predictions for next year” lists. I myself was intending to make a number of political predictions but balked at the chance to do so because, frankly, President Donald Trump is, if anything, unpredictable.
Being the commander in chief means that he wields the power of the “bully pulpit” — it is Trump who drives the narrative, for better or for worse, and who will guide our nation through whatever waters he decides he wants to navigate us through in 2019.
There is at least one notable exception: Trump is beholden to another individual’s narrative when it comes to the Russia investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller.
Despite Trump’s constant characterizations of the investigation being a “witch hunt,” a plurality of Americans approve of the way Mueller is handling the inquiry, which now involves the president and the administration officials who surround him. Forty-five percent of Americans say Mueller’s doing a good job, while 38 percent say they don’t approve of how he’s handling it, according to polling from Quinnipiac University.
Because the investigation has lasted for about a year and a half, many are beginning to speculate that it’s drawing to a close, though according to reporting from Patheos, many of these predictions are being made by members of Trump’s administration themselves and are simply examples of wishful thinking.
They’re also examples of foolish thinking.
There is no reason to speculate at this point that the Russia investigation will end anytime soon. There’s also zero reason to believe it couldn’t end within the next two weeks — in other words, it could also end sooner than most are predicting.
Despite some news reports leaking out of the inquiry and court documents giving newspapers plenty of fodder for speculation, Mueller has kept much of the investigation close to the vest. There’s a lot we don’t know, and a lot that the pundits are unsure of, to make a trustworthy prediction on what’s going to happen within the probe next year.
The investigation could end in February, just as it could end next December. And it could wind up ending anywhere in between — just as much as there’s a possibility that Mueller will find more evidence of wrongdoings, which could extend the inquiry into 2020. We simply don’t know what could or could not happen at this point.
The only thing we really can be certain of is that Trump will be at the mercy of Mueller and his team of investigators when it comes to the narrative of the Russia probe. Trump will try to disrupt that narrative, to be sure, through public statements and tweets he’ll issue between now and whenever Mueller submits his investigation’s findings to the Justice Department. But for the most part, it will be Mueller, not the president, who controls what pundits will speculate and gossip about over the next year.
On that notion, I feel very comfortable putting out my prediction. On anything else in the matter, only one person knows for sure a timetable for what should go down and when — and notably, that person is not the president.