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Republican Strategist Antonia Ferrier Discusses GOP Reaction To Mueller Report


We're going to turn now to Republican strategist Antonia Ferrier. She's a former senior communications adviser for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She's here with us in the studio. Welcome to the program.

ANTONIA FERRIER: Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: So Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway described today as, quote, "the best day" since President Trump's election. What's your take on whether or not that's true?

FERRIER: I think there's mostly good for the president and his team. But the report has some not so flattering parts in it. So I think that, overall, if you're the president and his team, you should be happy with it. But again, I think if you read into the report, like I said, there are some bits where - they're a little embarrassing. But I think from their perspective - and actually, I think, mostly, for most people in the country, they want to move on. And I think that we're probably going to have another month with the attorney general and maybe Mr. Mueller are going before Congress. But I think there is a distinct view - and, frankly, in both parties - that they should probably move on, so.

CORNISH: I want to get into the details of that more. But as a communication strategist, how did you feel about this, quote-unquote, "rollout?"

FERRIER: You know, I really thought the criticism of the attorney general giving a news conference was a little overwrought because I think he wanted to explain what it was that he was trying to do and the process by which he came to release this report. So I thought the criticism of him was overblown. The report came out. I didn't think it was as redacted as I had thought it might be. And so I thought there was too many process arguments by D's attacking him today.

CORNISH: We're speaking to Republican strategist Antonia Ferrier about the redacted Mueller report released today. You're listening to NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Now, what Republicans have been saying today, essentially, is case closed. But to your mind, when you're listening to what Democrats are out there saying, is that the case, is that possible?

FERRIER: I think it is case closed. I think it will be more case closed in about a month. I...

CORNISH: Well, let me jump in. You yourself said it creates a unflattering portrait, right? I mean, in one case, it's basically saying, look; the president tried to do a bunch of different things to interfere.


CORNISH: And the only reason it didn't happen is because aides just ignored him.

FERRIER: Well, here's the thing, though - didn't we already know a lot of this? So, you know, I hate to say that, but there was a lot of contemporaneous reporting. There was more - a lot more color and a lot more context that was given in the Mueller report today. So for example, The New York Times did report on former White House counsel Don McGahn threatening to quit over the president's request to fire Mueller; that never happened, and I think that's good for the republic.

But I think, again, what was this investigation - special counsel investigation about? It was trying to find what kind of coordination - what happened in the 2016 campaign? We must remember what it was focused on. And it ultimately concluded there was no conspiracy to collude between these two entities, to sway the election in favor of President Trump.

CORNISH: But there were plenty of contacts, and we heard former ambassador...

FERRIER: Absolutely.

CORNISH: ...Michael McFaul say, why? And is that something Democrats can keep pursuing?

FERRIER: They certainly can; it is their prerogative if they choose to do so. I think it is in their - I mean, I'm not in the business of giving Democrats advice, but it would not be in their best interests to do that, and you can see that with their 2020 candidates. And their voters, if you see these 2020 candidates, they're not being asked about Russia and collusion; they're being asked about things like health care, "Medicare for All," immigration - policies that - Green New Deal - that their voters care about. So you're going to have an activist core that push them to continue talking about the report and talking about Russia and finding more.

But there's going to be - it's sort of the law of diminishing returns here. And over time, after Barr, the attorney general, testifies, after Bob Mueller testifies, it's just going to seem like this is just a partisan activity trying to draw conclusions that no one else is drawing.

CORNISH: So you feel that way even if Bob Mueller was to testify?

FERRIER: Well, I think he should testify. And again, I don't think this report is as slam-dunk as the president's team makes it sound; again, there are a lot of embarrassing moments in there. I personally think Don McGahn did...

CORNISH: This is White House attorney - yeah.

FERRIER: Yes. Former chief counsel for the president really did the nation a tremendous service by refusing the president's order - or demand to fire Mr. Mueller. But at the end of the day, this is - there is an exhaustion across America on this topic. And so there will be a desire, like I said, by some Democrats to keep talking about it. But I think ultimately it is going to be the law of diminishing returns, and when the Democratic voters themselves are not talking about it, that's pretty much a good indication that at some point they're going to have to pull the plug on this.

CORNISH: Republican strategist Antonia Ferrier. She's a partner at the Definers firm, served as senior communications adviser to Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell. Thank you for speaking with us.

FERRIER: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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