After initially behaving triumphantly following the completion of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump and his advisors appear to be walking back their enthusiasm around the reported contents of the report, New York Magazine reports. Where once the president spoke enthusiastically about vindication and exoneration based on Attorney General William Barr’s abbreviated summary of Mueller’s submitted report, he has now characterized demands to release the report “a disgrace” and referred to the debates around the issue as “a waste of time.”
White House officials familiar with internal discussions around the report have told New York Magazine that following President Trump’s metaphorical victory lap after Barr shared his summary indicating no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, “cooler heads” in the administration have become increasingly concerned that Trump’s defiant celebration may have gone too far.
“There will be plenty of unfavorable things about the president in the full report, which we think will eventually come out, so let’s not go overboard saying there’s no wrongdoing,” said one senior White House official. “Let’s move on.”
In addition to the president’s tweets and other public statements on the matter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has been emphatic about the implications of the report, potentially setting up problems later on should the report be released and reveal information in conflict with official White House statements on the matter.
Sanders has indicated that the special counsel did not find any evidence of collusion, nor any obstruction of justice.
While the first part of that statement is true, the second is not. Barr’s summary does indeed indicate that Mueller found no evidence of collusion, yet it explicitly states that he chose not to pursue charges of obstruction of justice, but rather defer to Congress or the Justice Department on that question.
Sanders continued in a written statement, saying, “The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States,” which further conflicts with the known contents of the report, to say nothing of what may be revealed should it be made public. Barr’s summary is clear in indicating that the report is decidedly not an exoneration of the president with respect to charges of obstruction.
In the meantime, the “cooler heads” at the White House are advocating for putting the whole thing behind them.
“We’re letting people have a week to say, ‘Investigate the investigators!’ Take the victory lap, everyone agrees. Spike the football,” said one. “But then we need to put this behind us. Let’s not relive this. Let’s not drag Andrew McCabe in front of a panel or something that goes on forever.”