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1 topsy-turvy year of the special counsel investigation

The news broke on a Thursday morning just after 8 a.m.

Posted Updated

Analysis Chris Cillizza (CNN Editor-at-large)
(CNN) — The news broke on a Thursday morning just after 8 a.m.

The headline: "Special counsel appointed in Russia probe"

The key paragraphs:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed (former FBI Director Robert) Mueller to the position in a letter obtained by CNN. Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously recused himself from any involvement in the Russia investigation due to his role as a prominent campaign adviser and surrogate.

As special counsel, Mueller is "authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters," according to the Justice Department order Rosenstein signed.

That was 365 days ago. And what a year it's been.

Mueller's probe -- which has already led to five guilty pleas, one person sentenced, 75 criminal charges brought -- has come to dominate the political and legal landscape of Washington in ways that no one could have imagined one year ago today.

Much of that has to do with the size and scope of Mueller's investigation -- which began with a focus on Russia's attempt to interfere in the 2016 election and has burgeoned into a broader examination of the finances of one-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the context surrounding Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey and a number of other avenues.

But Trump has played a major part in the all-encompassing nature of the Mueller story, too. The President seems fixated on the idea that the investigation is, in his words, a "witch hunt" and a "hoax" designed by Democrats to pay him back for winning a race they should have never have lost.

"Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History...and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction," Trump tweeted Thursday morning. "The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!"

(Reminder: Mueller is a Republican and was appointed head of the FBI by George W. Bush. Rod Rosenstein was a Trump appointee. As was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia probe.)

For all of the Trump team's attempts at pushing Mueller to end the probe, there's no evidence that it is ending anytime soon. Mueller has been -- and remains -- entirely on his own timetable. Which means Trump will keep raging against the investigation. And the wheel will just keep spinning.

The Point: Mueller is one of the most important people in Washington, and maybe in the country, right now. What he knows -- and what he can prove -- has the potential to fundamentally alter the arc of the Trump presidency.

Read Thursday's full edition of The Point newsletter.

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