While most of official Washington is on edge ahead of the expected release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, Trump White House aides are shrugging off the fevered anticipation with a simple message: been there, done that.
Several of President Donald Trump’s aides conceded that the nearly 400-page report, which Attorney General Bill Barr says he’s aiming to release this coming week, will likely include new details about Trump’s behavior that are at a minimum embarrassing.
But they believe they have a powerful shield against renewed Democratic outrage and media scrutiny in the form of the principal conclusions Barr highlighted in a four-page letter three weeks ago—namely that Trump’s 2016 campaign did not collude with the Russian government, nor is there sufficient evidence to prove that Trump obstructed justice.
“This is a report where everybody already knows the outcome,” said David Bossie, Trump’s 2016 deputy campaign manager. Trump, he added, “wants it out. He just wants it out and over with.”
“In 400 pages there’s bound to be something the media will spin as embarrassing for the president and then that will be the story,” said a White House official, “but will it be collusion? Will it be obstruction? Will it be conspiracy? Will it be criminality? No, no, no and no.”
Even as more than a dozen Trump aides and associates interviewed by POLITICO professed confidence that the report would inflict little new damage on a president they say has already been exonerated by Barr, some Trump allies say the White House is in for a rude awakening.
The confetti and streamers that followed Barr’s letter last month were “completely unfounded,” said a former White House official, who called his former colleagues “blissfully unaware of what’s to come.”
Barr’s March 24 letter said that Mueller found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and that the evidence is “not sufficient to establish” that Trump obstructed the Justice Department’s Russia probe. Yet legal experts and Democratic investigators are watching for potentially damning new disclosures about everything from Trump’s efforts to stymie Mueller’s work to possible signs of Kremlin influence over the president which, even if not criminal, could raise serious national security alarms.