President Donald Trump's allies believe he will likely give a pass to those close to him who divulged damaging information to special counsel Robert Mueller and are now exposed in Mueller’s 448-page public report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice.
Trump, who is known for demanding full loyalty from those close to him, is trying to keep the focus on the "no collusion" conclusion of the report, while glancing over the specifics detailed in it, including instances in which his aides shared information that became part of the special counsel's evidence in the obstruction of justice section of the investigation.
“I’m having a good day too," Trump said ahead of the release of the report Thursday. "It’s called 'no collusion, no obstruction.'”
The report includes several accounts from Trump's former White House counsel Don McGahn, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former communications director Hope Hicks, and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, among others interviewed in the course of the nearly two-year-long investigation. The interviews, pieced together, reveal embarrassing details for the president, like how Trump aides regularly ignored his directives, including instances in which he tried to fire Mueller or limit his jurisdiction.
McGahn, for example, revealed how the president repeatedly asked him to deny press reports claiming that he had asked him to fire Mueller, even though that was false. And two days after the president asked McGahn to get rid of the special counsel, Trump dictated a note to Lewandowski to deliver to then–attorney general Jeff Sessions, directing him to limit the special counsel’s investigation to future election meddling. Lewandowski shared the note with Mueller’s team. And Sanders admitted to the special counsel that the reasoning she gave to reporters for the firing of former FBI director James Comey — that FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey — was not actually “founded on anything.”
Trump has publicly criticized those who cooperate with federal investigators, calling his former personal attorney Michael Cohen a "rat" earlier this year, and has often spoken of the importance of loyalty. In her book, former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman described Trump’s “moblike loyalty requirements” as “exacting, imperishable, and sometimes unethical,” which people in TrumpWorld see as an “absolute and unyielding necessity, akin to followers’ devotion to a cult leader.”
But three sources close to the administration say they believe the president has made an exception for most of his aides who testified before Mueller because more perjury charges, which Mueller had already indicted some of Trump's former aides on, would have been more damaging and dragged on the investigation.
"I don't believe there was ever any actual expectation that anyone would perjure themselves — even those most loyal to him," said one of the sources.
"I would be surprised if [Trump's] reaction to being cleared would be to get angry at his associates for telling the truth," the source added.
Another source close to the administration cautioned that there’s always a chance that Trump “might pop off on some folks,” but it didn’t seem likely that those who cooperated with Mueller would be his targets.
“The results of the report overshadow any of the comments made by those who cooperated,” the source said. “But for the foreseeable future his focus is on one thing: winning. And today is a good day for him.”
In terms of political retribution, Trump is more fixated on continuing to push for an investigation into the investigators behind the Russia probe.
“This should never happen to another president again, this hoax," Trump said Thursday morning. "It should never happen to another president again.”
The president's reelection campaign echoed that sentiment in a statement, following the release of the report.
"Now the tables have turned,” said Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement Thursday. “And it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.”