With less than 48 hours until Robert Mueller’s 400-page report is released to the public, there’s an almost giddy mood at the White House. “I don’t think it’s ever been as pleasant of a place to work as it is now. Everyone is actually really happy,” a White House official told a former colleague this week. Aside from a few rage episodes over the border—and those seem partially strategic—Donald Trump’s mood has been mostly buoyant since attorney general William Barr sent Congress his four-page summary of Mueller’s report last month. “Trump feels totally vindicated,” the former official told me. The prevailing West Wing view is that Thursday’s release is mostly a formality—the verdict is already in. That optimism is spilling over into a very rosy view of the president’s 2020 prospects. “They think they’re going to win unless they really fuck up. Trump is super happy all these Democrats are getting in,” a Republican close to the White House said.
Even the chaos looks smart to the Trumpers these days. Trump’s purge of Homeland Security officials and proposal to send migrants to sanctuary cities is only a preview of what Trump could do to create diversionary headlines to distract from politically damaging material in the report. “People are focusing on Stephen Miller. But it’s really the president who’s driving this,” a former West Wing official said of the recent D.H.S. firings. “Stephen is like the kid in the back of the class egging him on to shoot the spitball.” Another former West Wing official told me, “Nobody is in Trump’s ear. The only thing you can do is confirm what he’s already thinking.”