“The president clearly feels vindicated now that the Mueller report is completed,” said Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host, who recently taped a radio interview with Mr. Trump. “He will continue to remind the American people he was correct about there being no evidence of collusion with Russia.”
Other outside surrogates have been echoing Mr. Trump’s line — that the narrative has already been established and it is too late for new facts to change that — even though members of the special counsel’s team have expressed concern that Mr. Barr’s letter did not accurately portray the contents of the report.
“The facts are that there was no collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, no obstruction of justice and President Trump has been fully vindicated,” said Boris Epshteyn, a former White House aide who now serves as the chief political commentator for Sinclair Broadcast Group. “No amount of spin by the opponents is going to change that.”
But critics said the strategy is classic Trump — effective with a narrow audience, but ultimately self-limiting. “He will probably have succeeded in setting the narrative for his core supporters and hardening their attitudes, but at the expense of anyone else believing him when the report comes out and inevitably undermines what he’s been claiming,” said Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman under former President Barack Obama. “The same things that solidify his base just prevent him from expanding beyond it at all.”
Neal K. Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, said that such an approach could backfire. “Whatever Trump may have thought when he claimed total exoneration two weeks ago, subsequent events strongly suggest that claim will fall flat on its face,” he said. “And because Trump claimed total exoneration from the report, he created massive public pressure for the full report to be released.”
Inside the White House, there is only a bare-bones plan in place for how to handle the release of the redacted report, people familiar with the matter said. Emmet T. Flood, the White House counsel, is expected to spend the day reading the report and to brief the president on its findings.
The White House has not asked to read the report in advance, and aides are planning to speed read. They intend to all but skip the sections related to potential criminal conspiracy, and instead zoom in on two outstanding questions that Mr. Trump himself wants to ignore: why Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, was not able to conclude whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, and what the attorney general meant when he wrote in his letter that “much” of the president’s conduct was public — meaning some of it was not.