The thing about a coordinated coverup effort: you’ve got to pull it off cleanly enough that most people don’t notice or care. When it comes to the attempted coverup of what’s really in the Robert Mueller report, Team Trump seemed to be pulling it off for the first day or so, particularly when the media began parroting the false claim that the Barr summary was the Mueller report. But now it’s starting to unravel.
Team Trump’s first mistake was that the Barr summary was too cartoonishly glowing in Donald Trump’s favor to be plausible. This gave House Democrats leverage when it came to convincing the public that the real Mueller report be released. Now the media is finally starting to back off from its initial claims that the Barr summary was the Mueller report, and the media is calling for the real report to be released.
This has sent Donald Trump’s people scrambling, to the point that they can’t get their message straight. For instance Trump’s close ally Lindsey Graham, who has been positioning himself as some kind of de facto publicist for Barr this week, told a gang of reporters today that Barr is going to let the Trump White House redact any parts of the Mueller report that it considers to be covered under executive privilege, and then release it. This set off an immediate firestorm, because it’s obvious that Trump could simply redact all the parts that make him look bad.
Sure enough, just about an hour later, an unnamed DOJ official told NBC News that Barr won’t be letting the Trump White House see the Mueller report before it’s released. Oops. If Barr’s plan was to secretly let Trump whitewash the Mueller report before releasing it, then Graham just blew it by publicly talking about it. This has forced the DOJ to publicly commit to the position of not giving it to Trump, and it’s set up a brewing scandal about whether the DOJ might still try to secretly slip the report to Trump before releasing it.
The more convoluted this coverup becomes for Team Trump, the more they have to backtrack, and the more they have to publicly address the details of what they are or aren’t doing to cover it up, the more of a firestorm this becomes. We’re only 48 hours into Team Trump’s attempt at burying the Mueller report, and it’s already unraveling for them in real time. At this rate, the Trump-Barr coverup could quickly become Trump’s most problematic scandal to date.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report