FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. Robert Mueller's Russia probe has to end with a report. But anyone looking for a grand narrative on President Donald Trump, Russian election interference and all the juicy details uncovered over the last 20 months could end up disappointed. (J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Media critic

Earlier this week, CNN appeared to give itself some wiggle room as it broadcast that the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report was imminent:


(Screenshot) (Erik Wemple/CNN)

Host Brooke Baldwin told viewers on Wednesday afternoon, “President Trump has called Robert Mueller’s Russia probe everything from a witch hunt to a Democrat-led hoax to a disgrace, but next week he may be able to give it a new name — over. CNN has learned that new Attorney General Bill Barr may get Mueller’s report as early as next week nearly two years after the special counsel was appointed.” (Bolding added to highlight cleverness.)

“As early as next week,” the time period from next week until the time when the Atlantic and Pacific oceans converge somewhere in Kansas. But make no mistake: The rest of the world got ready for a Mueller report on Feb. 25.

Other news outlets confirmed that the end is near.

Then came Friday afternoon. News organizations received an update on the status of the report’s ETA, as summed up by CNN’s own Shimon Prokupecz:

So then CNN had to come up with another chyron concerning the Mueller report and next week:


(Screenshot) (Erik Wemple/CNN)

On CNN’s air Friday afternoon, Baldwin inherited the unfortunate work of adjusting expectations. “We’ve got some breaking news now with respect to the Robert Mueller probe," said Baldwin, who noted that Prokupecz had been “reporting out the wind — seeming that it would be imminent, this Mueller report would be dropping. . . . Do you have an update on the timeline?”

No, responded Prokupecz. No new timeline, though the report still is pretty much complete. The Justice Department, he said, doesn’t want to overshadow the news of President Trump’s visit to Hanoi next week for a summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

After additional analysis on the matter, Baldwin displayed some extemporaneous brilliance, saying, “And again, the news from Shimon Prokupecz just a second ago, saying that there were thoughts that the Mueller report would be coming out next week and now, according to Shimon and his sourcing, it won’t be next week because the special counsel’s office doesn’t want to step on the toes of the White House and this big trip to Vietnam next week."

Bolding added to highlight “thoughts,” a word that substitutes quite nicely for “reports from CNN.” The “next week” shenanigans are a fitting sequel to all the other expectations stated by journalists for months and months that Mueller is just about done.

“There is no upside for journalists trying to predict when this investigation is going to end. It ends when it ends,” said Adam Goldman, who covers the FBI for the New York Times.

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: Mueller’s ‘winding down’ may be less than it appears

Tom Toles: The Mueller report is coming! Positions everyone!

Lowell Weicker: I was on the Watergate committee. Don’t hide Mueller’s report from the people.

Harry Litman: Is Mueller’s report really ‘close to being completed’? I doubt it.