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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Everyone's waiting for the "Mueller Report." But it turns out that special counsel Robert Mueller is writing a "report" in real time, before our eyes, through his cinematic indictments and plea agreements.

The big picture: One of the least-noticed elements of the special counsel's approach is that all along, he has been making his case bit by bit, in public, since his very first court filing. With his major court filings so far, Mueller has already written more than 290 pages of the "Mueller Report." And there are still lots of loose ends in those documents — breadcrumbs Mueller is apparently leaving for later.

Perhaps the best example is Mueller's oddly specific reference to the Russian hackers targeting Hillary Clinton "for the first time" after candidate Trump's still-unexplained "Russia, if you're listening" comment on July 27, 2016.

  • Trump said: "I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." (He also said: "I have nothing to do with Russia.")
  • A Mueller indictment in July said that the next day, "the Conspirators ... attempted after hours to spear-phish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office."
  • That shows Mueller has access to much more intelligence than is publicly known. Remember, these are Russian government employees. So Mueller has remarkable and thus far unexplained visibility.

By making such detailed filings, Mueller is actually increasing his burden of proof — suggesting a supreme confidence that he has the goods.

  • And by making so much public as he goes along, Mueller is also insuring against his probe being shut down or otherwise curtailed by the White House.

Some of his deeply detailed filings raise questions that suggest more is coming:

  • In a February indictment of officials of the Russian troll factory, he announced that three Internet Research Agency employees traveled to the U.S. in 2014. He indicted two of them, but left unindicted someone from the IRA who evidently traveled to Atlanta as part of the operation for four days in 2014.
  • Mueller makes clear in the indictment that he knows the precise IRA official to whom this unnamed male traveler filed his Atlanta expenses after the trip.
  • The information could have come from U.S. intelligence or another country. But Mueller leaves the impression he may have a cooperator inside the troll factory.

Other hints at coming attractions:

  • Mueller said in last week's Michael Cohen plea agreement that a "Moscow Project" meeting about a Trump-branded building in Russia was called off, by Cohen, on the same day that the DNC hack became public. 
  • Based on a court filing last week, Mueller apparently hopes to quickly issue a "report" on Manafort’s activities to the court.

Be smart: If it’s anything like every other document Mueller has filed thus far, it'll be more informed, more knowledgeable, and more detailed than we can imagine.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Franklin Graham worries Trump too old to run in 2024

Graham and Trump at a rally in 2017. Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Rev. Franklin Graham says a potential 2024 presidential bid by Donald Trump would "be a very tough thing to do," the prominent Christian leader told "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, was among Trump's earliest and most prominent evangelical defenders.

5 mins ago - Axios on HBO

Cameo CEO says he would let Trump join platform

Cameo CEO Steven Galanis doesn't want the app he built to be used explicitly for politics, but said he would allow former President Trump on the platform.

  • "Trump has done nothing on our platform to violate our terms of service," Galanis says in an interview with "Axios on HBO" that aired Sunday.

Why it matters: Cameo's approach is different than some of its Big Tech peers.

Off the Rails

Episode 9: Trump's war with his generals

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Axios' "Off the rails" series documents the end of the Trump administration, from election night 2020 through the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

One important piece is only now beginning to emerge: Former President Donald Trump's last-minute bid to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan and swaths of the Middle East, Africa and even Europe ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration — and why he blinked.

John McEntee, one of Donald Trump's most-favored aides, handed retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor a piece of paper with a few notes scribbled on it. He explained: "This is what the president wants you to do."

1. Get us out of Afghanistan.

2. Get us out of Iraq and Syria.

3. Complete the withdrawal from Germany.

4. Get us out of Africa.