A court filing Wednesday from special counsel Robert Mueller's office may be a signal that his investigation into Russian efforts to coordinate with the Trump campaign is nearing a conclusion.
The filing asked a federal judge to start the process of preparing a pre-sentencing report for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to investigators in the Trump-Russia probe.
The move indicates that a sentencing for Papadopoulos could come this summer — without him testifying at the trials of others who may have been involved in alleged collusion with the Kremlin on its attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. No one faces such charges at the moment.
It's also possible that the filing is a sign that the investigation has progressed to the point that prosecutors have concluded Papadopoulos's testimony would not be useful in any future cases.
"It means they're pretty much done with him, or they don't need him testifying," said former federal prosecutor Sol Wisenberg. "It may mean they've taken a look at the others in the campaign and decided they cannot charge them, or they're going to charge them without him. ... It means things are moving along."
Papadopoulos was secretly arrested by the FBI last July as he returned to the U.S. on a flight from Germany. He was initially charged with making false statements and with obstruction of justice for misleading the FBI about his contacts with pro-Russia advocates during the 2016 campaign.
Last October, Papadopoulos entered his guilty plea to the false-statement charge in a sealed courtroom.
Prosecutors and the defense have repeatedly asked to defer further action in the case, initially for about three months at a time. Last month, they sought only a 30-day delay. The latest filing asks Judge Randy Moss to put the case off again for 30 days, but to have the court's probation department begin putting together a report examining Papadopoulos's conduct, background and how the federal sentencing guidelines should apply in his case.
The plea bargain deal revealed a few weeks after Papadopoulos's guilty plea said his sentencing could be delayed as long as his cooperation was needed.
"Your client also agrees that the sentencing in this case may be delayed until your client' s efforts to cooperate have been completed, as determined by the Government, so that the Court will have the benefit of all relevant information before a sentence is imposed," the agreement said.
A spokesman for Mueller's office declined a request to comment on the new filing.
Papadopoulos's attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.