Meanwhile, from the “news that will surprise exactly nobody” files, William Barr and officials from the Department of Justice have briefed the White House on the Mueller report, which will be released, in redacted form, to the public on Thursday.
ABC said Wednesday that the Justice Department has spoken with White House attorneys on multiple occasions over the past several days. One assumes those discussions were aimed at helping Trump’s legal team craft a spin strategy on the off chance the report contains material new information that might sway public opinion. To wit:
ABC News has learned that the White House has received a broad briefing on the report — described as non-specific in nature, focused mostly on the mechanics of the report itself — including that it will be divided into sections on obstruction and collusion and that certain portions will be redacted, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Sources say the president hasn’t privately expressed any concern over the contents of the report, and is not likely to read it in its entirety. White House officials will review the report, brief the president, and then release a statement that will come from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
While not at at surprising, revelations that the DoJ and the White House have discussed the report ahead of its public release will only serve to heighten Democratic concerns around Barr’s commitment to even-handedness.
Last week, Barr raised more than a few eyebrows on Capitol Hill when he suggested US law enforcement may be guilty of illegal “spying” on the Trump campaign. Pressed to provide evidence to support that contention or to otherwise explain why he feels it necessary to acquiesce to the president’s demands for an investigation of the investigators (so to speak), Barr came up empty.
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The Attorney General is obviously under intense scrutiny for what Democrats and Trump critics claim was a slapdash effort to exonerate the president on a possible obstruction charge last month. Some legal analysts also say it shouldn’t have taken three weeks to redact a ~400 page report, especially not when you have the kind of resources at your disposal that Barr most assuredly has. Ol’ Bill has also stonewalled Jerry Nadler on demands to produce the full, unredacted report (and the underlying evidence) even as the threat of a subpoena looms.
Barr and Rod Rosenstein will hold a press conference on Thursday at 9:30 AM to discuss the report. On Wednesday evening, the Justice Department said the White House did not instruct Barr to hold the press event but apparently, Trump is considering conducting his own news conference – because far be it from Trump to miss an opportunity to generate some “tremendous ratings.”
“You’ll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow”, Trump said, in an interview on the “WMAL Larry O’Connor Show”. “Attorney General Barr is going to be giving a press conference and maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see”, he added. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he was serious.
Asked directly whether Trump had anything to do with Barr’s decision to talk to the media, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupece said “No. It was our decision, and it was our idea.”
Sure thing, Kerri.
“The information that Justice Department officials have provided to the White House could potentially be valuable for Trump’s legal team as it finalizes a rebuttal”, The New York Times wrote on Wednesday evening, adding that “the president’s aides have devised a strategy where numerous lawyers and political aides will quickly read different parts of the document.” That’s according to multiple people briefed on the strategy.
According to several officials and sources, Trump’s advisers are most worried about the possibility that new information suggestive of obstruction could be revealed. They’re also reportedly concerned about Mueller’s interviews with multiple witnesses, including and especially Don McGahn who, you’re reminded, found himself “cooperating extensively” with the probe on the (ultimately mistaken) assumption that Trump was setting him up to be the fall guy.
Relive the McGahn saga
“Trump’s legal team never thoroughly debriefed McGahn’s lawyer about what his client told investigators, leaving them in the dark about what he said”, the Times goes on to say, before suggesting that “in recent weeks, White House officials have grown increasingly concerned about what McGahn told the Mueller team and believe his statements could be used in the report to paint a damning portrait of the president.”
Of course none of this really matters unless something truly shocking comes out of the redacted version of the report. The whole idea behind Barr’s “summary” was to ensure that by the time the public got its hands on the whole thing, the “no obstruction, no collusion” narrative would be so firmly entrenched that changing the story would be well nigh impossible. It doesn’t help that Nancy Pelosi went out of her way to essentially take impeachment off the table weeks before Mueller even turned the report over to Barr.
But don’t expect Jerry Nadler to give up easily. In fact, reports suggest Democrats are prepared to subpoena the DoJ within hours of the redacted report’s release if Nadler decides the redacted version isn’t sufficient. He’s made it abundantly clear that anything less than the full report and all the evidence will not suffice, so it’s hard to imagine this won’t ultimately morph into a legal battle for the ages one way or another.
And on that note, we’ll leave you with a couple of tweets, the first of which (from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries) is particularly pointed.
So-called Attorney General is presiding over a dog and pony show.
Here is a thought.
Release the Mueller report tomorrow morning and keep your mouth shut.
You have ZERO credibility.https://t.co/fKFeexUKkX
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) April 17, 2019
I’m deeply troubled by reports that the WH is being briefed on the Mueller report AHEAD of its release. Now, DOJ is informing us we will not receive the report until around 11/12 tomorrow afternoon — AFTER Barr’s press conference. This is wrong. #ReleaseTheReport https://t.co/bR50HhGJ0i
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 17, 2019
Why is William Barr holding a press conference if not to (once again) try and frame the Special Counsel’s findings. Just release the full report and let the American people judge for themselves!
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) April 17, 2019
Just received word that Judiciary Committee will get the report at 11am tomorrow. That’s 90 minutes after Barr’s press conference starts.
Amazing what they’re trying to get away with – we won’t let them!
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) April 17, 2019