On the eve of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s report, the New York Times is reporting that, in recent days, the White House and Department of Justice have had conversations about the report that have “aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.”
The report is in keeping with other recent reporting about the Russia probe and President Donald Trump. The scene at the White House is portrayed as one where Trump advisers are paralyzed by “paranoia” and in “fear” of Trump’s wrath.
What hadn’t been discussed in great detail were any communications between Trump’s legal team and Department of Justice officials. Per the Times:
The information that Justice Department officials have provided to the White House could potentially be valuable for Mr. Trump’s legal team as it finalizes a rebuttal to the Mueller report — expected to be released not long after the Justice Department makes the special counsel’s findings public. Advisers to Mr. Trump insist that they still do not know many details about Mr. Mueller’s conclusions.
The rebuttal “strategy” reportedly includes having an army of ” lawyers and political aides” on hand to react, which, we assure you, will be the case in most to all news rooms across the country.
One witness’ testimony in particular may loom large when it comes to obstruction details. Former White House counsel Don McGahn is known to have spoken to Mueller for more than 30 hours, the Times noted. Two sources described as “close to the White House” said that White House officials have “grown increasingly concerned” that what McGahn had to say will not exactly be flattering for Trump. Barr said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence wasn’t sufficient for an obstruction charge. Nonetheless, it was noted that Mueller didn’t exonerate Trump of obstruction.
Some legal pundits, lawyers, former federal prosecutors and law profs responded swiftly to the latest report and came away thinking that, perhaps, the Trump rebuttal of the Mueller report is an indication that the president isn’t “completely exonerated” after all.
Hmmm. Seems like it doesn’t “totally exonerate” Trump. (And what’s up w the head’s up to Trump?)
I am most interested to know whether Barr made legal conclusions that prevented an indictment and whether he second-guessed Mueller in this respect. https://t.co/eAaBJwq5D1
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) April 17, 2019
Barr stonewalled House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, but he has privately shared Mueller report findings with the White House, which “aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report.”
So much for the transparency he promised. https://t.co/ljTky0v78M
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) April 17, 2019
You mean it’s _not_ totally normal for someone to prepare a rebuttal to a report that “totally exonerates” them??
Tomorrow is going to be interesting… https://t.co/y1IgqlIBxO
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 17, 2019
Imagine the backlash if Comey’s people had coordinated with the Clinton campaign to give them a preview of the FBI’s findings before he had his July 2016 press conference. People would have lost their minds.
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) April 17, 2019
Still others have pumped the breaks on the “predictable outrage.”
This story will lead to the predictable outrage. But if the government is going to release damaging info about you (without charging you), I don't have any problem with your getting notice and opportunity for rebuttal.
(HRC should have had that chance, too.) https://t.co/tfNa3FDXAp
— Andy Grewal (@AndyGrewal) April 17, 2019
The latest round of criticism happens not long after Barr was roundly criticized for announcing a Thursday press conference.
[Images via Win McNamee/Getty Images, Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images]