The Trump team's Mueller report game plan: Read the report quickly and put out responses
WASHINGTON – Thursday, at least a dozen attorneys and staff members for President Donald Trump will plunge into special counsel Robert Mueller’s 400-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Their mission? Distill the document into a quick response for the waiting political world.
The president and his advisers are getting ready for the release by the Department of Justice of the findings by the special counsel whose investigation Trump called a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” Staff and lawyers will be assigned sections of the report to digest as the team looks to develop official statements and talking points.
The descriptions of the Trump team’s preparations are based on interviews with five sources familiar with the plans.
A summary of the report released last month by Attorney General William Barr said Mueller did not find evidence of collusion between Trump or his campaign and Russia, but the document will give a much fuller picture of the investigation.
Mueller report: Investigation found no evidence Trump conspired with Russia, leaves obstruction question open
Barr's summary: Read the AG's summary of the Russia investigation
As of last week, Trump said he had not read the Mueller report, but he and his aides predicted its main takeaways: There was no collusion with Russia, no obstruction of justice and no basis for the inquiry to have begun in the first place.
Getting out that message in the chaotic world of social media and cable television will be a chief aim of Trump's team and advisers. They will comb through the report on the same day that lawmakers, journalists and members of the public will see it for the first time.
"We're going to respond in a prompt and appropriate manner," said Jay Sekulow, one of the president's private attorneys. "We'll provide analysis throughout the course of the day."
It's a process that will probably play out in stages, the Trump aides and advisers said.
Job one: Read the report, quickly
Sekulow has a team of a half-dozen lawyers and staff members who will split up the report, scan their assigned sections quickly and issue summaries to help develop statements and talking points to be used by communicators throughout the day.
At the White House, the immediate review of the report is headed up by Emmet Flood, the lawyer representing the White House in the special counsel investigation.
Some officials joked that they hope the report includes an executive summary or a list of key findings at the front, to speed along the process.
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In developing their message, Trump and his aides are buoyed by Barr’s statement that Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
White House officials are less likely to dwell on claims that Trump sought to obstruct justice. Barr said Mueller’s report left "unresolved” whether Trump sought to obstruct justice during the course of the investigation.
Trump and his attorneys declared Barr's summary an exoneration. "No Collusion - No Obstruction!" Trump tweeted Tuesday, a message he is apt to echo after the release.
Job two: Put out responses quickly
Expect short written statements a half-hour or so after the Mueller report surfaces from both the White House and the Trump legal team. That's how Trump’s team responded to Barr’s letter last month.
Trump's legal team will probably issue a longer and more detailed statement an hour or two after that, depending on how much new information Mueller presents.
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Trump’s attorneys have been developing a “counter report” on legal issues involved in the investigation and may release that Thursday.
As attorneys and aides assess the Mueller report, the public is likely to hear from the top White House communicator: Trump himself. He may tweet or speak to reporters (or both).
Job three: Prepare for new details
In reading the report, teams of Trump supporters at private law offices, the White House, the Republican National Committee and the president's reelection campaign will look for new items that have not been made public.
They will probably be playing defense.
Trump's reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee have "war rooms" and "rapid response teams" ready to monitor media coverage and push back accordingly. "Real time" talking points are planned to be distributed to surrogates on television news programs.
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Pro-Trump organizations such as the Tea Party Patriots are prepared to weigh in, officials said.
“We know that President Trump will, once again, be vindicated," said Tim Murtaugh, communication director for Trump's reelection campaign. "No collusion and no obstruction."
He said, "The tables should turn now, as it is time to investigate the liars who instigated the sham investigation in the first place.”
The document released Thursday will include redactions. Democratic lawmakers pushed for the full document.
"We should see and judge for ourselves," Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And that's for Congress to judge whether the president obstructed justice or not, and for the public ultimately."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Trump team's Mueller report game plan: Read the report quickly and put out responses