Everyone in Washington says that they want as much transparency from the Mueller report as possible. At least a handful wouldn’t mind seeing a bit less, according to NBC. A few White House officials who came into contact with special-counsel investigators don’t want to find their names in the index or attached to anything that makes Donald Trump look bad.
I’m sure the president will handle such instances with his usual tact and decorum. And so are the aides frantically asking the Justice Department to keep them out of it:
Some of the more than dozen current and former White House officials who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller are worried that the version of his report expected to be made public on Thursday will expose them as the source of damaging information about President Donald Trump, according to multiple witnesses in the investigation.
Some of the officials and their lawyers have sought clarity from the Justice Department on whether the names of those who cooperated with Mueller’s team will be redacted or if the public report will be written in a way that makes it obvious who shared certain details of Trump’s actions that were part of the obstruction of justice probe, people familiar with the discussions said. But, they said, the Justice Department has refused to elaborate.
Of particular concern is how Trump — and his allies — will react if it appears to be clear precisely what specific officials shared with Mueller, these people said.
“They got asked questions and told the truth and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,” one former White House official said.
If it does follow, though, it’s likely to be very, very quiet. The White House will want the big takeaway from the Mueller report to be that it’s no big deal at the very least, and at the most a complete exoneration of the boss. Firing people and issuing angry rebukes in public will only make it look like the report has wounded Trump in a significant manner.
Privately, of course, the reaction might well be explosive, but it’s likely to be more tempered with the knowledge that these White House officials didn’t have much choice. As with other special counsels, Robert Mueller proved very aggressive in charging process crimes, just as with other special-counsel investigations, those were the only direct indictments that ended up getting prosecuted. (The Paul Manafort/Rick Gates indictments were leftovers from previous Department of Justice investigations with added obstruction charges from Mueller’s core probe tacked onto them.) Mueller made an example of Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos and succeeded in instilling that old-time religion of the Church of Not Lying to Federal Investigators. Trump can’t blame them for cooperating under those circumstances, especially while saying he had nothing to hide. Well, Trump can, but not reasonably so.
All of this existential angst about being an informant of sorts tells us that the White House will be dealing with some unpleasant factoids from Mueller starting on Thursday morning. Here’s one legit defense to that: it shows that Mueller didn’t get stymied in his investigation. If officials in the White House are worried about retribution, they must have spilled all the beans they had to spill. If that’s the case and Mueller came up empty on both collusion and obstruction, then the Trump administration has even more reason not to get vindictive. That doesn’t mean he won’t, but at least it might suit Trump’s interest to proclaim it rather than punish it.