What it really means that two of Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have left the team


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Two of the seventeen prosecutors on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team have left the building, and despite the relative lack of details about the departures, we’re seeing it spun in seventeen different ways by various pundits on different sides of the political spectrum. In reality there are three different plausible explanations for what’s going on here, and we’ll spell out all three.

All we know for sure is that Ryan Dickey and Brian Richardson, who are being described as “relatively junior” members of Robert Mueller’s team, have left the team. The most straightforward explanation for this kind of thing is that it means nothing at all. Mueller and his team have been at this for a year and a half, and team members come and go for personal reasons. But that explanation probably won’t satisfy those observers who are asking why two people have left.

So the second explanation would be that there was some unknown scandal in play with these two prosecutors. However, Robert Mueller’s spokesman says that there are no “political allegations, the appearance of bias or any other wrongdoing” and based on track record, we don’t see any reason that he would lie about this kind of thing. The third explanation would be that these two prosecutors have simply finished the work they were brought on to do. Mueller has hired prosecutors with various backgrounds and specialities to handle different aspects of the Trump-Russia scandal, and not all of them are going to be needed all the way until the end.

This is not a sign that Robert Mueller is planning to end his investigation soon, or that he’s scaling things down, or anything like that. Back when Mueller expanded his team from thirteen to seventeen people several months ago, we saw some pundits try to spin that as a sign that Mueller was somehow winding things down. So of course we’re going to see the same spin now. But the reality is that when two people on a seventeen person team move on, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all.

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