Longer than Watergate, but much shorter than Iran-Contra or Whitewater. That’s how Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation stacks up compared to other independent probes by the Justice Department.
The investigation concluded Friday when Mueller sent a final report to Attorney General William Barr — 674 days after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him as special counsel to look into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (The final number may be a few days longer, as a Mueller spokesman said staffers will stick around to close up shop.)
The next phase will begin shortly, as the Department of Justice, the White House and Congress hash out how much of the report to make public.
“I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend,” Barr wrote in a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.
Given the complexity of Mueller’s investigation, which resulted in the indictment, conviction or guilty plea from 34 people and three companies plus several other investigations referred to career prosecutors, the probe moved swiftly. But it was also much shorter than some other notable probes by special counsels and special prosecutors in the past.
Here’s how the length of Mueller’s probe compares to previous investigations.
Watergate: 155 days
Five men were arrested while trying to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters in June 1972, but it took several months before the Washington Post confirmed that break-in was linked to President Richard Nixon. A special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, was not appointed to investigate Nixon’s involvement until May 18, 1973. On October 20, 1973, Nixon was successful in requesting the Acting Attorney General to fire Cox, after both the previous attorney general and deputy attorney general refused and resigned. Cox’s investigation lasted 155 days. Nixon resigned nine months later, on Aug. 9, 1974.
Waco: 316 days
In February 1993, federal agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco raided a Branch Davidian religious compound near Waco, Texas, after the agency heard reports that the Christian cult, under the leadership of David Koresh, had stockpiled illegal firearms and explosives. A 51-day standoff resulted in a violent gun battle that led to 76 deaths, including more than two dozen children. The FBI did not believe Koresh when he said he and his followers would come out eventually, and so the FBI deposited containers of gas in the compound on April 19, 1993. Next, gunfire and flames seemed to break out simultaneously, and firefighters could not enter the compound. On Sept. 9, 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno named former Sen. John Danforth as special counsel to head a review of what happened in 1993, after the FBI uncovered information suggesting “incendiary or pyrotechnic devices may have been used.” On July 21, 2000, Danforth released findings that concluded federal agents did not fire shots at members of the religious group, nor did they start the deadly fire. His investigation lasted 316 days.
The Starr Report: 1,693 days
In January 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Robert Fiske Jr. as the independent counsel in charge of investigating financial irregularities at Whitewater Development Corp., an investment that Bill and Hillary Clinton were involved with. In August 1994, Kenneth Starr replaced Fiske as independent counsel. Reno approved Starr’s request to expand his investigation to include Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, in January 1998. Eight months later, on September 9, 1998, Starr released a report to Congress outlining 11 possible grounds for impeachment. Two days later, the report was made public. Between Fiske’s appointment and Starr’s release of his report to Congress, 1,693 days passed. Ultimately, in February 1999, the Senate acquitted President Clinton of the two articles of impeachment he faced: perjury and obstruction of justice.
Iran-Contra: 2,420 days
Around 1986, President Ronald Reagan’s administration sold arms to Iran, which was at war with Iraq. In exchange for the weapons, Iran was supposed to help the United States procure the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon. Profits from the deal then went to “contras,” rebel groups who were fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua at the time. The United States was not supposed to sell weapons to Iran or pay ransoms, so Attorney General Edwin Meese III requested that an independent prosecutor be appointed. On Dec. 19, 1986, a panel of judges appointed Lawrence Walsh. The Department of Justice confirmed that appointment a few months later. Walsh’s investigation lasted approximately eight years and resulted in charges against 14 people. He submitted his final report to the U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 4, 1993, meaning his probe lasted about 2,420 days.