Experts on independent investigations, including some who have worked with them in the past, say that the former FBI director is moving on an aggressive timeline as he looks into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. They say that could help keep it from getting bogged down or off track, like some past investigations.
“We don’t want it to be spread out,” says Solomon Wisenberg, who was second-in-command in the Whitewater/Lewinsky investigation into President Bill Clinton. “It’s not good for the country if it’s spread out for four or five years. I think to me that’s a good sign, it’s a sign that [Mueller is] being sensitive to that problem.”
That independent counsel investigation of Clinton, for example, lasted for four years, and impeachment proceedings extended beyond that. It initially began as a look into Clinton’s financial dealings with the Whitewater property company, but ended up exposing sordid details of an affair between the president and a White House intern.
Mueller’s apparent speed in tackling a massive investigation is likely related both to his own personality and the grave importance of what he’s trying to figure out, which includes whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
“His reputation is as someone who doesn’t mess around,” says Katy Harriger, a professor at Wake Forest College and author of a book on federal special prosecutors. “But I think if you look at the overarching questions of this investigation, they’re pretty serious in terms of the alleged wrongdoing, and I think someone of Mueller’s stature and commitment to public service that he’s demonstrated would want to know the truth about this fairly quickly.”
Another, more concrete reason Mueller may be working quickly: the simultaneous investigations in Congress. As Mueller’s team proceeds with their work nested within (but slightly separate from) the Justice Department, committees in both the House and the Senate are also looking into the Russian matter. As Congress interviews some of the same witnesses that the special counsel’s office needs to speak with, it could impede Mueller’s ability to get to the truth.
“The more people testify, the more evidence gets trampled on,” explains Harriger. “Stories get rehearsed, people lawyer up, all those kinds of things. The more…