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White House Reacts To Mueller Report Summary


We want to turn now to reaction from the White House. President Trump has spent the weekend in Florida at one of his estates. He spoke not long ago before stepping on Marine One.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it's a shame that your president has had to go through this for - before I even got elected.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe is with us now to talk about how the White House has been handling all this and what this may mean going forward. Ayesha, welcome to you. Thank you so much for joining us.


MARTIN: Tell us more about what President Trump had to say this afternoon.

RASCOE: Well, President Trump, you know, he said that after this very long investigation of him, basically they - that they did not find collusion. And he talked about the people, as you said, that had been badly hurt by this, presumably some of the people that have been caught up and gotten indicted including Paul Manafort and others. And he basically said that this - he even called the investigation, even with this kind of good news coming out for him, that it found that he hadn't colluded with the Russians and that his campaign had hadn't, he called it an illegal takedown that failed.

And he basically said that he hopes that the Justice Department will begin looking at the other side, presumably Democrats, Hillary Clinton, because he feels, I guess, that they have engaged in wrongdoing. So he really did seem kind of - still kind of angry about what - about this investigation, and - even though he is saying that he has been completely exonerated.

MARTIN: Did the president have any more to say? Or had anybody at the White House have any more to say about the numerous ongoing investigations, that there are investigations in other divisions? Certainly, their House committees are looking into a number of matters. A Senate committee is looking into a number of matters. Was there any discussion of that today from anybody at the White House?

RASCOE: So not necessarily from the White House. But what you are hearing from supporters of President Trump in Congress and elsewhere, what they seem to be saying is it's time to move on and that we need to go forward as a country. And so that doesn't sound like we need to start digging in and looking into more of this.

They are taking this as this is over and done with. And we need to kind of stop these investigations and stop looking for stuff and just go on with policy, which is, I'm sure, what the president and what the White House will be arguing going forward, that they will kind of cast all of these investigations - although they are all very different and not just this - they will likely cast this as something that we should just move on from and that it's just kind of more of the same. The president is completely innocent.

MARTIN: Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Yeah, I'd like to add that even though the White House and people close to President Trump want Democrats to beg off, there is no sign they're going to do that. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler from New York, has put out a tweet saying he wants the attorney general to testify as soon as possible about what he calls discrepancies, very concerning discrepancies in this letter and very concerning final decision making by the DOJ, which picked up the ball from Bob Mueller and is moving it forward today.

MARTIN: Has the attorney general, William Barr, indicated whether he is willing to testify?

JOHNSON: Barr has pledged as part of his confirmation hearings to become attorney general to be as transparent as possible within the law. I think he's a big boy. He's been the AG before - remember, under President George H.W. Bush. There's virtually no way he can avoid testifying to Congress, both chambers of Congress, about this issue and many others.

MARTIN: Phil Ewing.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: The question is about the special counsel himself, Robert Mueller. There have been members of Congress who've said they don't just want to hear from the attorney general as we heard Carrie talk about a moment ago. They want to hear from Mueller. That hasn't been litigated fully yet. But you've seen the way Mueller has conducted his investigation since he was commissioned and has spoken in public very seldom. He hasn't talked at all. He's not out there on the Sunday shows. He's not writing op-eds in the newspaper.

And I don't know what they would do if a formal request comes in from the Congress. But I can imagine that Mueller probably would not want to be in the situation that Barr could be in with the Judiciary Committee talking on TV in front of Republicans and Democrats. I think that he probably would try to resist that.

MARTIN: Ayesha, can you give us a sense of what the atmosphere has been over the White House - at the White House over these last few days, in particular as we've been waiting for this report. And then more broadly, I'd like to ask what the atmosphere has been at the White House in the wake of the fact that this has - really has been a a shadow cast over the administration throughout its entire tenure. So first of all, tell me about the last couple of days. And then more broadly, what's it been like?

RASCOE: So I would say over the last couple of days, it's been kind of wait-and-see mode. But I think that with everything kind of wrapped up and this idea that - or this idea that things were concluding and it didn't look like maybe there wouldn't be any more indictments, I think that there was this idea that maybe this won't be a very negative report. But that wasn't known. It was really kind of just wait and see. And there was this idea from - even from President Trump where they were trying to take this kind of hands-off, it will be up to Barr whether to release it.

And maybe we should let the public hear everything or see everything, see the whole report and let them decide for themselves. You could kind of hear that in some of President Trump's statements, like, we'll see if this is legit or not. And so that was kind of like the past couple of days.

MARTIN: Carrie Johnson, what about you? What's been the atmosphere at the Justice Department while all this has been going on? I mean, the president has made no secret of his disdain for the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, whom he blames for prolonging what he considers to be an illegitimate investigation because the attorney general, the former attorney general, refused to recuse himself from this. And he's made no secret of his disdain for certain career professionals at the Justice Department. What's been the atmosphere there?

JOHNSON: The atmosphere has been one of anxiety, Michel, as we wait for what we're going to find out from the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, who I will note have been working all weekend on this. Photo - cameras, video and photographers have been staking out the attorney general's home, have been staking out the special counsel as he goes to church. The question is whether that intensity is going to continue now or not.

MARTIN: That's Carrie Johnson. Phil Ewing remains with us. Ayesha Rascoe, our White House correspondent. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.