Tuesday 17 September 2019

White House staff fear Trump's wrath for talking to probe

It’s a wrap: Ivanka Trump visits a cocoa farm in the Ivory Coast. Photo: Reuters
It’s a wrap: Ivanka Trump visits a cocoa farm in the Ivory Coast. Photo: Reuters

Tom Embury-Dennis

White House officials are reportedly suffering "breakdown-level anxiety" over whether the Mueller report will expose them as a source of damaging information about US President Donald Trump.

More than a dozen current and former administration personnel co-operated with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia, according to NBC.

The report is expected to be made public in redacted form by Attorney General William Barr today, following pressure from Congress to release the findings in full.

Some officials and their lawyers have allegedly asked the Justice Department to clarify if the report will make their identities obvious out of fear over Mr Trump's or his allies' reaction if it reveals they criticised the president or revealed negative information about him. "They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they're worried the wrath will follow," a former Trump official told NBC.

One person close to the White House told NBC News there was "breakdown-level anxiety" among current and former officials who spoke with Mr Mueller's office at the direction of the president's legal team. Mr Mueller's report will be redacted upon release today, but the president is already ramping up his attacks on those involved in the probe.

"The Mueller Report, which was written by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters), should have focused on the people who SPIED on my 2016 Campaign, and others who fabricated the whole Russia Hoax," Mr Trump falsely tweeted on Monday.

Identity crisis: Officials fear they will be punished by President Trump
Identity crisis: Officials fear they will be punished by President Trump

In fact, Mr Mueller is a registered Republican and there is no suggestion his team engaged in a partisan investigation. Mr Trump yesterday doubled down on his claims, wrongly claiming the Russia probe was initiated by "dirty cops" and Hillary Clinton.

Mr Barr, in a four-page summary to Congress last month, reported Mr Mueller had cleared Mr Trump and his campaign of colluding with Russia, but said the former FBI director had steered clear of ruling on whether the president obstructed justice.

Mr Trump claimed the investigation exonerated him on both counts, something that was not true. He also pressed Mr Barr to launch an investigation into why the FBI began its probe of members of his campaign team, claiming he was the victim of an "attempted coup".

The Justice Department expects to release the report to the public this morning.

Mr Trump's lawyers are putting the finishing touches on a rebuttal to the 400-page document. Rudy Giuliani, one of the president's attorneys, said it will be published in the hours after the release of Mr Mueller's report.

Mr Barr's department also announced asylum seekers who have proven a credible fear for their safety will no longer be able to ask a judge for a release bond. It means more migrants can be indefinitely detained while they wait for their cases to be heard.

The policy will be delayed for 90 days to allow officials to prepare for overcrowding in detention facilities. The move is seen as an effort to end what Mr Trump describes as a "catch-and-release" policy towards illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has vetoed a US Congress resolution to end military assistance for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, calling the move "unnecessary and dangerous".

Using a veto for only the second time in his presidency, Mr Trump knocked back a resolution passed not just by the Democrat-held House but also the Republican-controlled Senate. The president argued giving support to the Saudis and their partners helped protect Americans in those countries from Iran-backed Houthi militias. He claimed the countries "have been subject to Houthi attacks from Yemen".

His decision appalled critics who believe the Trump administration is too closely aligned to Saudi Arabia and has not done enough to end the Yemeni civil war, which began in 2015. At least 10,000 people have died in the conflict. The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of pushing Yemen to the brink of famine with a blockade, and of killing and maiming children. (© Independent News Service/Daily Telegraph London)

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