Top White House aides are trying to project calm in the West Wing, even as special counsel Robert Mueller draws closer to the Oval Office with his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign.
As Vanity Fair reports, GOP operatives in contact with Trump believe the special counsel’s investigation is nearing the president, causing anxiety among White House staffers and top Trump advisors. “I’m told that Mueller's team is rooting around inside Trumpworld more deeply than is publicly known,” one source said. “Outside West Wing advisers tell me that may create a showdown.”
The operative described Mueller as “working through the staff like Pac-Man,” and pushed back on the administration’s efforts to downplay the special counsel probe, noting White House staffers are “of course” worried by the Russia investigation.
“Anybody that ever had the words ‘Russia’ come out of their lips or in an e-mail, they’re going to get talked to,” the source said. “These things are thorough and deep. It’s going to be a long winter.”
According to the Washington Post, a source close to the administration agrees the president’s public efforts to downplay Mueller’s probe is at odds with reality.
“The president says, ‘This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,’ ” a source told the Post. “He is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.”
Still, the narrative that Trump is not focused on Mueller’s investigation remains pervasive. One White House official told Axios Monday, “the only people focused on or consumed by this are the press.”
“The White House staff are working to carry out the president's agenda on behalf of the American people,” the source said.
That sentiment is shared by White House lawyer Ty Cobb who dismissed notions that Mueller’s probe is rattling members of the Trump administration.
“The people who have been interviewed generally feel they were treated fairly by the special counsel, and adequately prepared to assist them in understanding the relevant material,” Cobb told the Post. “They came back feeling relieved that it was over, but nobody I know of was shaken or scared.”