Within minutes after word came on Friday that Robert Mueller’s report had been handed over to the Department of Justice, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said officials there had “not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel’s report ” that could prove critical to the future of Donald Trump‘s presidency.
“The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course,” Sanders tweeted, referring to William Barr, who in a letter to Congress
said “I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”
Earlier Friday, with regard to possible timing and whether he might be getting any advance word, the president told reporters “I have no idea about the Mueller report,” as he departed the White House Friday morning for Florida.
The president expressed openness earlier this week to the report’s public release but has also said that ultimate authority regarding to the report’s dissemination rest with his newly-installed Attorney General William Barr.
In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo that aired Friday, Trump seemed to be bracing for the possibility that he could be accused of having obstructed justice, arguing, as he has before, that his “fighting” back should not be considered obstruction.
“For two years we’ve gone through this nonsense, because there’s no collusion with Russia, you know that better than anybody and there’s no obstruction, they’ll so, oh wait there was no collusion, that was a hoax, but he obstructed in fighting against the hoax,” Trump said.
Trump repeated a political argument that he made on Wednesday, suggesting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, and Mueller himself, had no basis to issue a report judging him because neither had received a single vote compared to the millions who had given him his election victory. “Think of it, I have a deputy, appoints a man to write a report on me, to make a determination on my presidency, people will not stand for it,” Trump said.
With the president still uncertain about what the report may say about him, the White House was preparing for multiple contingencies.
Officials were writing a range of responses to address the best and worst case scenarios that could come from the report, according to multiple sources familiar with the strategy.
However, sources say the language used in the responses will be essentially what has been heard from the White House over the course of the investigation — that there was “no collusion” and that the investigation was a “witch hunt.”
Sources told ABC News that White House counsel Pat Cipollone is also traveling down to Mar-a-Lago this weekend.
The Trump 2020 campaign, along with the Republican National Committee, was also preparing aggressive responses.
“We are prepared and we expect the report will find no collusion as the president has said from day one,” a senior campaign official said.