Stressed White House Officials Fear Retaliation for Cooperation With Mueller Probe

Stressed White House Officials Fear Retaliation for Cooperation With Mueller Probe April 16, 2019

Given the petty, craven, and retaliatory nature of the current presidential administration, along with the frothing groupies of the MAGA set, I get why some people in Washington may be feeling a bit of unease, with news that Congress will have special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report in their hands on Thursday.

Just so this is properly understood, the public may not know what’s in the report on Thursday, depending on what Congress decides to do with what they’re given. As it is, Democrats in Congress want to see the full report, along with all relevant materials that went towards determining Mueller’s findings.

We don’t know that Attorney General William Barr, who got to where he is because he sent an unsolicited letter to the Department of Justice in June 2018, slamming the probe as “overreach,” can be a fair arbiter of truth, if it means falling out of favor with the president.

His parsing of the Mueller report back in March, giving his slanted summary of the findings, even while he was forced to admit that Trump was not exonerated by the information given, will long cloud the public’s perception of him.

He is not the Attorney General of the United States. He’s Donald Trump’s new “fixer” – petty, plastic, conniving, and driven by a desire for what may be his final brush with power.

A new report from NBC News suggests that there are officials within the White House who are counting the moments until the release of the report, concerned that if their cooperation with the probe and any damaging information given gets back to the president, there will be retaliation.

“They got asked questions and told the truth and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,” one former White House official said.

Some of those who spoke with Mueller’s team, such as former White House counsel Don McGahn, witnessed Trump’s actions up close and were privy to key moments in the obstruction investigation and spent many hours with investigators.

One person close to the White House said there is “breakdown-level anxiety” among some current and former staffers who cooperated with the investigation at the direction of Trump’s legal team at the time.

Let me interject something here. And yes, I know this isn’t an unusual thing, but should we really have the kind of government where elected officials can strike such fear in the hearts of staffers, afraid of retribution?

That’s something you see in despotic regimes.

“You have a whole bunch of former White House officials and current White House officials, but especially former White House officials, who were told to cooperate,” the former White House official said. “So people went and did that, and now the uncertainty is just how much of that information is going to be in that report and how identifiable to individuals is it going to be. And nobody knows.”

Those feeling the pressure now are those who had the most troublesome information to provide to Mueller’s team.

That’s absolutely preposterous. If you see something very wrong, you should have the freedom to say so. This is about the protection of our republic, not defending one man’s reputation.

But we know how thin-skinned Donald Trump is.

What we know about the coming report is that much of it will be redacted. Barr has said that there will be redacted parts for sensitive material, or grand jury testimony. He has also suggested there could be redactions to protect “personal privacy,” or third parties. We still can’t say what that means to him.

Will it be enough to satisfy Congress?

“Even if names are redacted or names aren’t in the report to begin with, it could be situations people were asked about and they answered truthfully that at least for some people — specifically the president — would be identifiable because the situation applies to just one person,” the former White House official said. “Nobody has any idea what this is going to look like on Thursday.”

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.



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  • Michael Weyer

    That it’s the redacted version means it’s not the full report. Which once more brings up why, if it “totally exonerates” Trump, they don’t just release the full thing. Instead, it sounds even more like something to hide.

    Once more, I’ve long doubted in collusion just because there’s no way Putin is stupid enough to openly trust a complete idiot like Trump with knowing important stuff. However, the way Trump acts, it sure makes him look like something to hide. Remember, Watergate was never really about a burglary but all the laws Nixon broke covering it up. And Nixon was a hundred times smarter than Trump ever was.

  • chemical

    True, but Nixon didn’t have Fox News to sing his praises to High Heaven, and he didn’t have Bill Barr to bury any incriminating evidence.

  • chemical

    Barr has razor-thin tightrope to walk.

    On one hand, if Barr turns in 400 pages that all say [redacted], it will likely be worse than if he turned in an unredacted report. On the other hand, if he releases any evidence implying that Trump is a criminal, Cult-45 will turn on him with the fierce rage they’re known for. There are very few options for Barr, and Mueller even had the good sense to remove those by providing summaries that were intended to be released, unredacted.

    One person close to the White House said there is “breakdown-level anxiety” among some current and former staffers who cooperated with the investigation at the direction of Trump’s legal team at the time.

    Breakdown-level anxiety isn’t something that people should feel for cooperating with law enforcement.

  • JASmius

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight: there are White House officials who are still in their jobs who were told by Trump’s legal team to cooperate with Mueller – which they didn’t need to be told because it isn’t as if cooperation with Mueller was optional – and now they’re terrified of retaliation against them by Trump when the alternative was to perjure themselves and go to jail, which seems like a much worse alternative than enduring some mean tweets and MAGA empty death threats? Or maybe they fully believe that Trump will order Bill Barr to go after them on “trumped” up criminal charges on some fictional grounds or other. Which is entirely plausible, given that Barr obviously subscribes to the old adage, “in for a penny, in for a pound”.

    But no, I don’t think those quaking White House officials have anything to worry about, because the “report” that is released on Thursday will be completely redacted, including page numbers. But their petrification seems to be another powerful indicator that below all that black sharpie ink, Mueller did anything but “exonerate” Trump.

  • Michael Weyer

    Oh, by now the meme is all over forums on “can’t wait to see the Mueller report” and it’s nothing but blocks of blacked out ink except for the odd “the” or “and.” Yet of course the Trumpists will hail it as “total collusion and proof it’s all a vast conspiracy. Now let’s get to those evil Islamists/Soros operatives who set fire to Notre Dame!”

  • chemical

    If Barr releases a report that’s redacted in its entirety, that’s basically admitting that Trump is guilty of everything and that Barr is a toady doing Trump’s bidding. Barr knows that whatever he sharpies out something, whoever is reading the report is going to fill it in with whatever they want it to say. That’s why I said he’s got a very narrow tightrope to walk here — one that’s so narrow I’m not sure it actually exists.

    And then there is still Mueller’s team, saying that they provided summaries of the key sections that didn’t need further redactions. Which means if Barr releases anything but that, he might have a lot of explaining to do.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    How is this action by Barr (release of a redacted Mueller report) any different from the actions of Eric Holder over the various scandals and the made-up, redacted “reports” HE released to Congress in defense of HIS lord ?

    The only real difference I can see is one of the degree of retaliation that may (or may not) ensue and the brazenness (not the level, type, scope or severity) of the illegality on the part of the sitting King Emperor President that the AG is attempting to cover up.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    “Collusion” (actually more like “conspiracy” since the word “collusion” does not define an actual action or crime), need not be headed by Trump for Trump to be a willing partner.

    It is entirely possible that we could find the Mueller report indicates that Putin was spearheading the attack on our electoral college and on our election system (and therefore on the credibility, validity and authenticity of our elected president). If this was actually a Russian attack that Trump merely participated in by providing Putin electoral information in exchange for “property rights”, Trump does not have to be particularly smart. Putin is actually doing all the thinking and only Putin would know the full plan / end-goals. All Trump would have had to do was to take orders – orders that could be updated personally by Putin during “private summit meetings” or by go-betweens during Trump’s many “vacations” to the unsecurable (and exclusive) Mar-A-Logo.

    It’s also possible that Putin could have been sending instructions directly to Trump underlings (or have agents planted in the Trump campaign as appears may have been the case with Paul Manafort and Carter Page) or in the Trump organization (including contact or influence over the Trump kids – kids that actually vacationed in Russia during Trump’s campaign, then returned to the US to exert a huge influence over “President Daddy”.

    I fail to see why Putin would be required to even tell Trump the truth of his plans. Trump is certainly vain enough and ignorant enough to fall for virtually any cover story Putin would care to feed him in order to extract sensitive political information or national campaign status information from either Trump personally or from willing Trump underlings that are able to convince Trump that cooperating with Putin would be in his best interest….

    Especially since it appears that most indicators are showing that Trump never actually intended to win the election – he was in it for the fame, the applause, and the potential international connections, exposure and influence it would garner him.

  • chemical

    There are legitimate reasons for the government redacting documents that are going to be released to the general public. It’s my understanding that Mueller also summarized the main sections of his report in to documents ready to be released — that is, Mueller redacted himself.

    Mueller was tasked with 3 investigations:
    1. Did the Trump campaign collude with Russia to win the 2016 election?
    2. Did Trump obstruct justice by firing James Comey?
    3. What was the extent that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?

    I’m expecting #1 to be a big nothingburger, and we already know everything there is to know about that (i.e., Manafort and Stone indictments). #2 is going to be interesting to see what Barr redacts — if that section of the report is redacted heavily then you can bet he’s covering up Trump’s crimes. I’ve also heard that Mueller wanted to interview Trump over this and Trump’s lawyers wouldn’t let him, because he couldn’t stop incriminating himself for all of 5 minutes in practice interviews. #3 wouldn’t surprise me either way — any evidence that Russia helped Trump win detracts from Trump’s narrative of his bigly election victory, but on the other hand #3 wasn’t specifically asking if a crime had been committed, either. It’s not like we can lock up Vladimir Putin! So, there should be no reason to redact much, if anything, there. If #3 is redacted, that basically proves that Barr is a hack whose loyalty is to Trump, instead of the American people.

  • captcrisis

    They thought Nixon was bad. But it was beyond imagining that Nixon would go to these lengths as to obstructing justice.

    Remember, folks, Nixon resigned, in the face of certain impeachment and conviction.

  • Principled Conservative

    One thing that’s been consistent with this administration is that truth is its enemy. People are now in fear because they told the truth.


    At least Nixon had some integrity and honor at the end.
    Trump doesn’t understand the meaning of the words, nor does he even care to even if he could.

  • Ellen Elmore

    Telling the truth is not worrisome unless the person you are telling the truth about is Trump. Trump is a master at bullying people to get what he wants and will damage the career of anyone who disagrees with him. So far, Trump has always come out smelling like a rose. I hope this time is different, but I doubt it. Trump has too many devoted followers who will “die for their cause”, the cause being whatever it takes to assure Trump will win in 2020.