Morning breaks over the White House and the offices of the West Wing (R) in Washington January 20, 2015.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Some White House staffers worry about exposure in Mueller report


As the investigation into the Russia scandal unfolded over the course of many months, plenty of White House officials did what Donald Trump refused to do: they spoke to investigators and answered their questions.

In theory, so long as they were truthful, the aides’ cooperation with the probe seems like an inherently good thing. But in practice, as NBC News reported yesterday, some White House staffers are concerned about possible cameos in the Mueller report, due to be released tomorrow morning.

Some of the more than one 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.

As one former White House official put it, in reference to White House officials, “They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they’re worried the wrath will follow.”

How worried? One person close to the White House told NBC News there is “breakdown-level anxiety” among some current and former staffers who cooperated with the investigation.

It’s important to emphasize that the president’s own attorneys told aides they should cooperate with the special counsel’s probe. As best as we can tell from the outside, those directions did not come with a wink and a nod – staffers were encouraged to answer investigators’ questions, and so they did.

But these same aides are suddenly faced with the prospect of appearing in the Mueller report, alongside revelations that their volatile president may not appreciate.

Indeed, the NBC News report is important, if for no other reason, because it offers a peek behind the curtain: if these staffers didn’t have damaging perspectives to offer, they wouldn’t be nervous right now.

In other words, if White House aides sat down with investigators, answered questions fully and honestly, and left confident that they hadn’t said anything that would cast Trump in a negative light, they wouldn’t have any cause for concern.

The fact that some are feeling “breakdown-level anxiety” offers a pretty big hint that they conveyed information to Team Mueller that didn’t make their boss look especially good.

Over the last week or so, the president himself has appeared, to put it mildly, highly agitated over what Americans may soon learn about Mueller’s findings. But let’s not forget those who work on his team, who are apparently quite nervous, not because they’re worried about Trump’s fate, but rather, because they’re worried about their own.