What Do the 2018 Midterm Elections Mean for the Mueller Investigation?

Robert Mueller went quiet in the final weeks before the 2018 midterm elections. The special counsel's investigation is ongoing, but there were no new indictments or revelations as the campaigns made their closing arguments to American voters.

It is the unwritten custom of the Department of Justice to not issue indictments connected to politics in the two months before Election Day—but now the election results are almost all in. Democrats regained majority control of the House of Representatives, while the Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate, dividing control of the two chambers of Congress.

So what does this mean for Mueller's sprawling investigation, which is as popular among Democrats, who want it strengthened, as it is unpopular among Republicans, who want it over with?

President Donald Trump has called the probe a politically motivated witch hunt. The investigation concerns Russian interference in the 2016 election and suspicions that members of the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russian government to defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as well as questions of possible obstruction of justice by the president himself.

By taking the House, Democrats regain control of its committees and the powers they wield. They will likely use them to bolster Mueller's investigation or at least pile more pressure on Trump and his associates.

Controlling the House means Democrats can, for example, subpoena the release of secret documents related to the investigation or force witnesses to testify in front of them, bringing greater transparency to a process that has so far been cloaked in secrecy.

"There's not much the House can do unilaterally to protect Mueller," Jacob Parakilas, deputy head of the U.S. and the Americas program at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank in London, told Newsweek. "You'd need new legislation to pass both House and Senate by a veto-proof majority, which is extremely unlikely given the composition of the Senate and last night's results there.

"But there's a fair amount a Democratic House could do to backstop his investigation—they can subpoena the Justice Department for documents, and could subpoena Mueller, [Deputy Attorney General] Rosenstein or other officials to testify under oath about instructions they were given or other relevant details.

"And, importantly, the House Intelligence Committee—which will now be chaired by Adam Schiff, a vocal critic of the president—can re-open its investigation into Russian interference, which was closed by the Republican majority earlier this year, and subpoena witnesses and documents that it previously ignored."

Mueller's investigation has been notoriously tight-lipped, refusing to comment on almost every alleged leak or piece of speculation about what it knows and when actions will occur.

Andrew Wright, who was staff director of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and an associate counsel to President Barack Obama, told Vice News that "there is a lot of information out there that a committed investigative congressional body can get to that nobody has seen yet. I think that's the really big-ticket item. That's going to be huge."

However, on the Senate side of things, Parakilas said little is likely to change for Mueller's Russia investigation because of the midterms.

"The Senate Intelligence Committee hasn't closed its investigation yet, but it was generally seen as conducting a more impartial and bipartisan process than the House. So we have to wait and see," he told Newsweek.