Rumours abound that the long-awaited Special Counsel report on potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign could be released any day.
Don’t get too excited though – only Robert Mueller and his team know for certain when it will be out and they have remained characteristically quiet on the issue.
But his team has provided clues that prosecutors are still working on key issues, an indication he may not be ready to submit the report just quite yet.
Ahead of its release there are a few things we do know, including a long list of scandals and indictments, some of which are unparalleled in US political history.
And it’s also possible to sketch out how things will progress once it does appear.
What will the report say?
Broadly speaking, there are two possible options – either Donald Trump has broken the law or he hasn’t.
If he has, this will will relate to one of two things - either Trump or members of his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him get elected or the president obstructed justice by ousting perceived enemies at the Justice Department, such as former FBI Director James Comey, and abused his presidential power by possibly offering pardons or tampering with witnesses.
What happens if Trump has broken the law?
If Trump hasn’t broken the law then it will be a major victory for him and vindication of his months of calling the probe a “WITCH HUNT”.
WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2019
If the report finds Trump acted illegally then Attorney General William Barr must decide whether or not to indict him.
However, current Justice Department policy does not allow a sitting president to be indicted. It also avoids publicly releasing evidence of misconduct against individuals who have not been charged, so if he isn’t charged we may never know what the evidence was.
So that would be the end of it either way?
Not quite. The Special Counsel investigation is just one of many probes and others are looking at things outside Robert Mueller’s remit.
Half a dozen Democratic-led House committees are now examining alleged coordination between Trump associates and Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election, as well as his tax returns and possible conflicts of interest involving the Trump family business and policy-making.
There is also the investigation by the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which is ongoing but has already resulted in the jailing of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer (see “What we already know” below).
The Mueller report could provide some or all of these with fresh evidence (even if it isn’t released publicly, it could go to Congress) or avenues of inquiry if details are disclosed.
If they’re disclosed?
Yes, it’s not a given. In 1998, then-Special Counsel Kenneth Starr produced a hugely detailed public report into Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky but anyone hoping for a salacious repeat of this type of document will be disappointed.
Mueller is working under different guidelines to Starr and once the report is released it will be up to the US Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General William Barr, to decide how much of it is shown to Congress and the public.
Barr could provide just a summary and Democrats are concerned he could withhold any incriminating information about Trump.
During his January Senate confirmation hearings he didn’t give much away about his intentions, saying: “My objective and goal is to get as much as I can of the information to Congress and the public.
“I am going to try to get the information out there consistent with these regulations and to the extent I have discretion, I will exercise that discretion to do that.”
What about impeachment?
Impeachment, the forced removal of the president under the US Constitution, is a time-consuming process and would not likely succeed while Republicans control the Senate unless an investigation reveals Trump something so nefarious that his own party had no choice but to turn against him en masse.
Another factor is the upcoming 2020 presidential campaign – an emerging sentiment among some lawmakers is that by the time a president is nearing or in the last year of a four-year term, voters in the next election, not Congress, should determine whether he stays or goes, even amid allegations of wrongdoing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump is unfit to be president but she is “not for impeachment.”
“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” Pelosi said in a Washington Post interview published on Monday. “And he’s just not worth it.”
So basically, nothing much at all could come of the Mueller probe?
Not quite. We’ve already learned so much form the Special Counsel investigation but it’s come out in such a drip-drip fashion it’s easy to lose sight of just how much has been uncovered.
What we already know:
1) The hush money
Trump is alleged to have had affairs with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal long before he became president.
While the affairs themselves are disputed by Trump, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is going to jail for his role in paying both women hush money in order to keep details of the alleged affairs from harming his chances of becoming president.
Cohen also claimed he was ordered by Trump to lie about the whole episode to First Lady Melania Trump.
2) The contacts with Russians
It is already well-documented that Trump and his associates had over 100 contacts with Russian nationals, Wikileaks, or their intermediaries before the inauguration.
The most infamous of these is the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Trump’s son, son-in-law and then-campaign manager met with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin for the expressed purpose of obtaining “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Emails setting up the meeting explicitly stated it was part of the “Russian effort to aid the (Trump) campaign”.
3) The tower
An intriguing area of focus in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 US election is a proposed Moscow real estate deal that Donald Trump pursued while running for president despite denying at the time any links to Russia.
4) The national security advisor
Shortly after taking office, Trump hired Michael Flynn to be his national security advisor despite warnings not to do so including from Barack Obama.
At the same time, US intelligence agencies suspected Flynn was compromised by Moscow.
He later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and was forced to resign.
5) The security clearances
Trump pressured his chief of staff and White House counsel to grant top-level security clearances for members of his family, against the advice of his own administration.
Both men refused to grant the security clearances to the Ivanka and Jared Kushner, and ultimately Trump awarded them to the pair himself.
6) The firing
In May of 2017, Trump fired the then-Director of the FBI, James Comey.
In a letter to Comey, Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI but numerous events after this suggest the president had other reasons.