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The Trump team’s Mueller report game plan: Read the report quickly and put out responses

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The Trump team’s Mueller report game plan: Read the report quickly and put out responses


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The Justice Dept. says it’s preparing to release on Thursday a redacted version of the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference. AP White House reporter Zeke Miller explains the attack now coming ahead of the report. (April 16)
AP, AP

WASHINGTON – On 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 probe Trump has 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 yet but that he and his aides are already predicting its main takeaways: There was no collusion with Russia, no obstruction of justice and no basis for the Mueller probe 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 be combing through the Mueller 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 likely 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, officials said.

Over at the White House, the immediate review of the report is being headed up by Emmet Flood, the lawyer who has been representing the White House in the special counsel investigation.

Some officials have joked that they hope the report includes an executive summary or a list of key findings at the front, in order 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 on the probe. Barr said Mueller’s report left “unresolved” whether Trump sought to obstruct justice during the course of the probe.

Trump and his attorneys have spent the past weeks declaring Barr’s summary an exoneration, most succinctly in a presidential tweet on Tuesday. “No Collusion – No Obstruction!” Trump tweeted, a message he is apt to echo after the release.

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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, officials said. 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, officials said, with the timing to depend on how much new information Mueller presents.

More: As the Mueller report looms, Democrats find voters would rather talk ‘kitchen-table’ issues

More: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia, Trump to be released Thursday, Justice Department says

Trump’s attorneys have also been developing a “counter report” on legal issues involved in the investigation, and may release that on Thursday. Officials said there is no final decision.

As attorneys and aides assess the Mueller report, the public is also likely to hear from the top White House communicator: Trump himself. Aides said 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 re-election campaign will look for new items that have not yet been made public.

They will likely be playing defense.

Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee also 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 who go on television news programs.

‘I am concerned’: Attorney general says he will review government ‘spying’ on Trump campaign

‘A mountain gave birth to a mouse’: Putin mocks Mueller investigation, again denies interference

Outside pro-Trump organizations like the Tea Party Patriots are also prepared to weigh in, officials said.

“We know that President Trump will, once again, be vindicated,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s re-election campaign. “No collusion and no obstruction.”

He added that “the tables should turn now, as it is time to investigate the liars who instigated the sham investigation in the first place.”

Although the document released Thursday is expected to include redactions, Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for the full document.

“We should see and judge for ourselves,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, speaking 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.”

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