Trump Is Suddenly Worried About the Mueller Report, Here's Why - Rolling Stone
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Why Trump Is Suddenly So Worried About the Mueller Report

AG William Barr says he will release a redacted version of the special counsel’s findings on Thursday

President Donald Trump pauses during remarks on the deployment of 5G technology in the United States during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C.President Donald Trump pauses during remarks on the deployment of 5G technology in the United States during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C.

Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

President Trump wants America to know that he is totally innocent. At the same time, he seems increasingly nervous about the public seeing a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings, which Attorney General William Barr says he will release Thursday. Though Trump has in the past expressed indifference to the potential release of the report, he’s now railing against the efforts of Democratic lawmakers to obtain the full, unredacted report, while renewing criticisms of the investigation he simultaneously says has already proved his innocence.

“Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings (and great intelligence), have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction,” he tweeted Monday morning. “These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!”

This is not true. When Attorney General William Barr released his “principal conclusions” of the report last month, he quoted it as noting that the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Mueller did not, however, contend that Trump did not obstruct justice, writing that his team was not able to “exonerate” the president. It was Barr, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who concluded the report did not contain enough evidence “to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

But earlier this month, members of Mueller’s team leaked to the Washington Post that they found “alarming and significant” evidence of obstruction that “was much more acute than Barr suggested.” The Times later reported that Mueller’s team believes what they found is “more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated.”

The White House is worried. On Sunday, ABC’s Jonathan Karl revealed that the administration hasn’t been all smiles since it was briefed “in broad brushstrokes” on the full report. “There is significant concern on the president’s team about what will be in this report and that will be unredacted,” he said, noting that though “the good news is already out there” regarding Barr’s conclusion of no conspiracy, there is worry about new information regarding obstruction of justice. Karl specifically referenced Trump’s potential efforts to fire Mueller and the circumstances surrounding his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.

“What worries them most is what [former White House counsel] Don McGhan told the special counsel,” Karl said. “He has visibility on all of this. It was reported earlier that he spent 30 hours before the special counsel.”

This White House probably should have been prepared for the possibility that whatever McGhan told the special counsel would eventually go public, but they forgot to ask him about it. “Here’s the astounding thing,” Karl continued. “After all that time before the special counsel, no one on the president’s legal team debriefed McGhan on what he was asked by the special counsel or what he told the special counsel. The bottom line is that they really don’t know.”

Last August, the New York Times reported McGhan cooperated “extensively” with Mueller’s investigation, and that he provided “investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer.” McGhan’s conversations with Mueller’s team reportedly centered around Comey’s firing, his efforts to convince former attorney general Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself from overseeing the investigation and attempts to fire Mueller outright. The special counsel’s office reportedly pursued several avenues in probing potential obstruction of justice, even taking into considering Trump’s many tweets excoriating Sessions for allowing the investigation to continue.

Though Barr, who last year wrote an unsolicited memo criticizing the obstruction of justice arm of Mueller investigation, says there is not sufficient evidence to charge Trump, it doesn’t take much common sense to realize Trump went to considerable lengths to impede the investigation. Trump already said explicitly on national television that he fired Comey for “the Russia thing,” and there is no legitimate reason he would have a problem with Sessions recusing himself, or that he would want to fire Mueller, a lifelong Republican and Justice Department veteran who no one outside of Trump’s orbit could have argued wasn’t qualified to lead the investigation, other than a drive to snuff out the inquiry.

Regardless, Barr will not charge Trump. It doesn’t mean, however, that a Mueller report filled with damning testimony from Trump’s own White House lawyer isn’t going to reflect poorly on the president and possibly reinvigorate the debate over his fitness for office just as his 2020 campaign is heating up. The prospect could help explain why Trump went from saying he “doesn’t mind” if the report is released and that Mueller acting honorably a few weeks ago, to suddenly resuming his attacks on Mueller’s team and the Democrats who want to see the report.

At the same time, the president is doubling down on the red meat issues that helped him win in 2016, namely that Americans should be scared of brown people. As the release of Mueller’s findings looms, Trump has gone out of his way to drum up anti-Muslim bigotry against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), with the Times reporting that it could be part of a larger campaign strategy. He’s also found a new angle for his anti-immigration platform, repeatedly threatening to transport detained asylum-seeking migrants to “sanctuary cities” largely controlled by Democrats. The Times reported on Sunday that he’s done so in part to distract from the Mueller report.

The only certainty regarding the release of the redacted Mueller report on Thursday is that Trump will claim his innocence has been proved, regardless of what the report says about obstruction of justice. In fact, he already has. “I don’t care about the Mueller report,” he told reporters last week. “I’ve been totally exonerated.”


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