What Happens Next Now That The Special Counsel's Investigation Is Complete

Mar 25, 2019
Originally published on March 25, 2019 5:38 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump is expressing relief that the special counsel investigation is over.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's lasted a long time. We're glad it's over. It's 100 percent the way it should have been. I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker.

CORNISH: Though he remains critical of the process that played out over the past two years. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us now to talk about how the president and his allies are moving forward. And, Tamara, do we know the White House position on whether the Mueller report - the full report should be released?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, President Trump was asked about it today, and he said that it's up to the attorney general, but it wouldn't bother him at all. White House officials have been making extensive media rounds today, and they too are saying that it's really up to Attorney General Barr. Earlier today I talked to Sarah Sanders, who said that the White House has not seen the contents of the Mueller report and that they are not asking to see the contents.

Though one spokesman who was making those media rounds did say that the White House does expect that Barr would come to them - the attorney general would come to them and ask if there were any materials that could be protected by executive privilege. But it's not clear that there are any of those materials, and it's not clear what the White House would do in that case.

CORNISH: The president today acknowledged that special counsel Mueller conducted himself honorably. At the same time, he still slammed the investigation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING).

TRUMP: It was a false narrative. It was a terrible thing. We can never let this happen to another president again, I can tell you that. I say it very strongly. Very few people I know could have handled it. We can never ever let this happen to another president again.

CORNISH: Are we looking at a president who plans on letting this go?

KEITH: Oh, he's not planning to let it go at all. Sanders - I asked her that question. She said that the president has spent two years being attacked by the media and Democrats, and so why would he let it go? And not only is the president going to keep talking about it, but his allies on the Hill, including Lindsey Graham, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are now talking about investigating the investigators.

And, you know, there is a communication strategy here. All of these media interviews that the White House has been doing, they keep saying no collusion, no obstruction. They're glossing over some of the nuance in Attorney General Barr's letter. And they're all doing this before the full Mueller report has been released. Part of this is just they're out to celebrate, they have good news. But part of it is also working to lock in this idea in the minds of voters and others before any additional information comes out that, you know, no collusion, no obstruction, say it one more time.

CORNISH: How do you expect these developments to affect the president's re-election campaign?

KEITH: Well, part of his appeal to supporters has always been about everyone being against him - and them, by extension. And this fits right in with that. A campaign official I spoke to said that the president will use the events of the last two years against Democrats and the media. Mark Lauder (ph) is the director of strategic communications for the campaign, the 2020 campaign. And he told me that he thinks that this Mueller report news both clears a dark cloud that had been hanging over the president and will cause some voters to possibly reconsider what they think of him.

MARK LAUDER: It will provide for millions of Americans the opportunity that, despite all they heard for two years from the national media, that now we know to be not true, that they might take another look at this president, see the results that he's having.

KEITH: And we're going to get our first preview of this on Thursday. President Trump has his first post-Mueller report rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. And you can expect that he'll take something of a victory lap there.

CORNISH: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks for your reporting.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.