Donald Trump may be able to dodge punishment over Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, thanks to William Barr’s letter seemingly clearing him of collusion and obstruction and Republicans’ reluctance to turn on their party leader. But that doesn’t mean members of the president’s staff will be safe when the special counsel’s redacted report comes out, likely on Thursday.
According to NBC News, current and former White House staffers who spoke with investigators are bracing for the report’s release, fearing retribution from the vengeful, loyalty-obsessed president, should he not like what they said. “They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,” a former administration official told the outlet.
In public, Trump and his administration have taken a somewhat relaxed posture, despite reports that some on Mueller’s team view the four-page summary the attorney general released last month as overly favorable to the president. Trump has bristled at Democrats’ calls for the full report’s release, suggesting he’s concerned about its contents, but has also seemed emboldened by Barr, pushing the limits of his presidential powers in the weeks since his “total exoneration.
Still, the NBC report suggests there’s some anxiety behind all that chest-puffing, both for administration officials past and present who spoke with the special counsel’s office, and for the president, who may find himself once again embarrassed by his own allies.
Some officials and their lawyers have reportedly “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.” But the D.
has refused to clarify, reportedly driving some staffers to “breakdown-level anxiety.” As one former administration official put it to NBC, “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.
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.”
Moreover, they have good reason to be worried.
Trump is known to be obsessed with loyalty, and vengeful toward those whom he sees as having betrayed him. He is mercurial, and sours quickly on the officials in his orbit, calling them “world-class players” one minute, and “dumb as a rock” the next.
He bullied former attorney general Jeff Sessions mercilessly for perceived disloyalty in the form of recusing himself from Mueller’s investigation, and pushed out Department of Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen over his perception that she was “weak” on the border. Seeing the names or identifying details of current and former staffers in Mueller’s 400-odd-page report could send Trump on a rampage, denting his delicate ego even as the report’s contents complicate his 2020 re-election bid.
More Great Stories from Vanity Fair
— How the L.A.
Times rose from the near-dead
— Is the Biden campaign dead on arrival?
— Did China create a racist A.I.
to track Muslims?
Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hive newsletter and never miss a story.
Follow to get the latest news and analysis about the players in your inbox.
See All Players.