Special counsel Robert Mueller's office plans to complete its probe into alleged obstruction of the Russia inquiry by President Donald Trump by Sept. 1, the president's personal lawyer told The New York Times in an interview published Sunday.
While Mueller's ongoing broader probe is expected to continue, it suggests investigators may seek to avoid influencing public opinion ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Rudolph Giuliani told The Times that the special counsel's office shared its timeline about two weeks ago, in the middle of discussions about whether Trump would submit to questioning by Mueller.
"You don't want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don't know how it affected the election," Giuliani told the publication, who shared similar remarks with NBC News.
Meanwhile, Reuters cited a source familiar with the probe who called the Sept. 1 deadline "entirely made-up" and "another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work."
"He'll wrap it up when he thinks he's turned over every rock, and when that is will depend on how cooperative witnesses, persons of interest and maybe even some targets are, if any of those emerge, and on what new evidence he finds, not on some arbitrary, first-of-the-month deadline one of the president's attorneys cooks up," said the source, a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity, according to Reuters.
The obstruction inquiry is just part of a larger probe of Russia's interactions with the president, which includes an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into Moscow's attempts to meddle in the general election.
Early in his administration, Trump was said to have requested that former FBI Director James Comey end the inquiry into the president's ex-national security advisor, Michael Flynn. That incident is just one of several overlapping layers of the Russia inquiry that Mueller and his team are probing.
A spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment to The Times.
The timeline matters not just to Trump, but to Congressional Republicans under pressure from the electorate.
Polls suggest Democrats are favored to retake control of Congress in November, amid dissatisfaction with the GOP and a Trump administration mired in controversy. However, that edge in public opinion has narrowed recently, according to a Real Clear Politics average.
Giuliani's public remarks come as the president has demanded an investigation into whether the FBI placed surveillance on his 2016 campaign — and whether such activity was ordered by members of the Obama administration. Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller's probe as a "witch hunt" and insisted there was no collusion, or attempts to obstruct justice.