May 17, 2018, 2:58 PM ET

A year into Mueller's investigation is there any end in sight?


As the special counsel investigation into Russian interference reaches the one year mark, the president’s legal team is publicly pressing for Robert Mueller to wrap up his probe.

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Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused from the Mueller investigation, recently opined that “this thing needs to conclude.”

But how much longer is the investigation expected to last?

When looking at the timeline of the investigation, legal observers say, it is important to consider that it predates Mueller’s appointment. By the time Mueller was appointed in May of 2017, the FBI had already been running a counter-intelligence probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, so a significant amount of investigative legwork had already been completed.

PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 21, 2017.Joshua Roberts/Reuters, FILE
Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 21, 2017.

The criminal complaint in the George Papadopoulos case says the FBI’s investigation “was opened and coordinated in Washington, D.C. and had commenced in 2016.”

By January 24, 2017, just days after President Trump took office, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was interviewed by FBI agents. Three days later, FBI agents questioned George Papadopoulos. The false statements both men made in those interviews sealed their fate to become the first defendants convicted in the Mueller probe that would be launched nearly four months later.

Only ten days after Mueller was appointed, prosecutors presented a 22-page affidavit for a search warrant in federal court in Virginia to get evidence from Paul Manafort’s storage unit. This “suggests that Manafort already under investigation when the Special Counsel took over the reins,” as Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the Paul Manafort case in the D.C. federal court noted in a recent order in the matter.

“In the typical life of federal criminal investigations, it seems that this undertaking has already moved at warp speed,” according to former U.S. Attorney spokesman Randall Samborn.

Samborn is a veteran of several lengthy public corruption cases who served as a spokesman for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald during the investigation into the leak of the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. He says even with the rapid pace, there is likely much more to be done. He noted the stack of criminal charges, guilty pleas, cooperation, and two trials that are scheduled in the coming months.

While the president’s lawyers urge for a speedy conclusion, any delay in wrapping up the probe is not totally attributable to prosecutors, former federal prosecutors say. Defense counsel can play a significant role in slowing down investigations. Good defense lawyers will often want to negotiate terms with prosecutors and those negotiations take time.

PHOTO: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting, June 21, 2017.Andrew Harnik/AP
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting, June 21, 2017.

Criminal defense attorney Shanlon Wu, a former member of the legal team for Rick Gates who pleaded guilty in February to charges in the Mueller investigation, says delays can be helpful to the defense. “Speaking generally and not about any particular case, delay generally favors the defense as the passage of time degrades witness memories and the availability of evidence,” Wu told ABC News.

“If Trump and his legal team want the investigation to end, they could help advance that cause by answering whatever the special counsel and his team have in whatever setting is agreeable to both sides and doing it expeditiously,” Samborn added.

The issue of whether Trump will submit to an interview has been the subject of on again, off again discussions between the Special Counsel and the president’s lawyers for months, with recent suggestions that the president could resist subpoenas, possibly assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and is beyond the reach of an indictment as a matter of existing Justice Department policy.

President Trump has also had several changes in his legal team, including the departure of his attorney John Dowd and the imminent departure of Ty Cobb. New additions to the team include attorneys Emmett Flood and Rudy Giuliani. “Every time you change lawyer, you start the clock. That part of the delay is absolutely attributable to the president. I’m not saying it’s improper, but the notion that the government entirely controls the timing is untrue,” one former federal prosecutor told ABC News.

Past investigations suggest an imminent end is unlikely.

The Plame investigation took three and a half years to complete. The sprawling Whitewater investigation that began as a look into President Clinton’s involvement in an Arkansas land deal and led to Monica Lewinsky and an impeachment trial ran more than six years. The Iran-Contra investigation lasted eight years.

Some legal observers point to benchmarks that could indicate the investigation could be nearing its halfway point. A special grand jury, like the one in Washington, D.C. that has been hearing evidence in the Mueller investigation, is typically empaneled for 18 months with a possibility of a six-month extension.

However, a new grand jury could be called, further extending the timeline. Former federal prosecutors say it is not unusual for complex and lengthy investigations to span multiple grand juries.

The special counsel has not indicated whether his team is nearing the middle or the end of the investigative process.

According to a Justice Department official familiar with the matter, people recruited to work on the Mueller team were asked to make at least a two-year commitment to the assignment.

Former FBI Special Agent in Charge and ABC News consultant Steve Gomez says such a time commitment would not be unusual for an investigation of this nature.

“When putting together a team for a case of this nature, prosecutors would want to have some continuity and would ask for people to prepare for a two-year commitment because investigations can take many months and commonly last two years or even longer,” Gomez said.

“It’s breathtaking for an investigation of this magnitude to be moving this quickly and I suspect there’s still a long way to go,” Samborn said.

ABC News' Trish Turner and James Meek contributed to this story.

News - A year into Mueller's investigation is there any end in sight?

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  • Sonora Nomad

    Holy sweet Jeebus, Jethro....Conclude Mueller's investigation after one year? Nah....these things take time. It took 1 1/2 years to complete the Jimmy Carter-Peanut-Bank investigation...I josh you not, Jethro....1 1/2 years on a peanut investigation.

    Mueller is prying for-real criminals, villains, Russians, turncoats, bagmen, traitors and cetera from the woodwork. Really, who among us does not want the truth?

  • WiredWilly

    Do you honestly believe with the leaking pipes in Washington DC that if Mueller had anything on President Trump that it would have been leaked by now? Some commenters on this discussion are not even talking about what has been discovered in this year long probe but what it cost compared to other investigations.
    This shows me they are neither concerned about the corruption that led up to the Mueller probe by Obama's high ranking FBI, DOJ and CIA personnel or they believe what the biased media has been feeding them about President Trump colluding with the Russians. The media cannot surely report that President Trump colluded with the Russians for over a year with then turn around and say they were wrong. Wait, the New York Times is trying to now get out front of the IG report coming out soon that their "Non Journalistic Reporting" was false.

  • Nearl45 61

    Mueller has accomplished an amazing amount of work within a year.

  • William H Bockemuehl

    It could be over tomorrow if tRump admitted guilt, resigned, and agreed to tell Mueller everything in exchange for no time and no penalty. tRump would be free, but Pence, Ryan, McConnell et al would be needing new pants on a daily basis. Theirs would be so soiled.

  • Loue Whose

    it can't be stopped
    they haven't spent all the money yet

  • Discrimination is not a right.

    It's only been a year.

    The Watergate investigation lasted two.

  • Bud Simpson

    Any end in sight? The GOP hounded Hillary with 8 Congressional investigations over 6 or 7 years and after one year of this we have this kind of a headline.

    Heck, Mueller's been more successful at his job this past year than Trump.

    Trump's gone from one failed project to another, he has people leaving his administration like he had the plague, he's got more incompetent appointed directors facing scandal, plus constant lying, adulterer charges, porn star affairs and who knows what else. On top of that almost everyday you hear Trump whine about it and claim it's a witch hunt...a witch hunt that's getting indictments and confessions. Sad Fake POTUS.

    Mueller's already gotten indictments and confessions...Mueller's the only one getting his job done.

    How about Mueller for President 2020!!!


    Benghazi took longer than this and nothing was found......the whole time Republicans wanted it to keep going.

    This makes Benghazi and even Watergate look small, so just strap yourselves in and get used to it.

  • DuelingDogmas

    The investigation will last as long as there are crimes by Trump and his band of miscreants to discover.

  • SMRT

    “Disgusting Illegal and Unwarranted”, is the perfect description of the Donald administration.

  • SMRT

    Every time Guiliani lies, his rodent teeth grow a little longer.

  • jon rhodes

    Mr. Mueller is an extremely competent, professional. He will bring his investigation to an end when he has all the information that he is capable of attaining. What doesn't seem to come to an end is Trump's endless harmful executive proclamations. Leaving the Paris Agreement is a terrible decision. There is a reason that virtually the entire world signed on to protect our planet. Trump is smarter than the world's scientists. His ignorant pulling us from the Iranian agreement which prevented Iran from enriching uranium for the next eight years is a frightening decision. The agreement served not only us, but the many other countries who signed on. His inhumane decision on DACA is just one more example of his inability to feel compassion for humanity. Calling the immigrants at our border, "animals" is stupefyingly immoral.
    And yes, I haven't even mentioned his daily lying to his supporters. I don't consider that he is lying to his non-supporters because we already know that nothing that dribbles out of his mouth is truthful. The only people who swallow his lies are his muddled thinking supporters.
    I don't have the time or stomach to even mention all the sexual predatory actions attributed to him. It's enough that he's cheated on three wives.

  • SMRT

    Happy birthday to the Mueller investigation!

    Even at 1 year-old, it has more dignity, grace, and professionalism than corrupt Donald and his pro-Russia propaganda apologists ever will.

  • Charles James

    As far as I am concerned Mueller's investigation can "drag on" for years just like Trump's audited tax returns taking years to complete because they are very involved, complicated, and convoluted.

  • Scott Mills

    No, they will just 'going on and on' throwing tax payer money away down a bottomless pit. Useless.

  • Rosetta

    How long did the Benghazi "investigation" last? How about Hilary's email investigation? Or the Ken Starr investigation? The Mueller probe should be able to last at least as long as any of those before people start questioning if it has gone on too long.

  • Hank R

    I wonder what the reaction will be if Mr. Mueller concludes that President Trump did not collude with Russia to sway the election. I also wonder what the reaction will be if he does. It will be interesting and fun either way.

  • Alex Ross

    "A year into Mueller's investigation is there any end in sight?"

    Yes. When Trump is in jail.

  • Debra

    I hope the end is in sight and that the end is bad for Trump and his crooked administration. It should be announced just prior to the Nov. elections, and the House will go to the Dems, followed immediately by impeachment at the very least.

  • allworld

    The scope of Mueller's investigation should be expanded.