Erin Schaff/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Not all of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings will be news to President Trump when they are released Thursday.
Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.
A sense of paranoia was taking hold among some of Mr. Trump’s aides, some of whom fear his backlash more than the findings themselves, the people said. The report might make clear which of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers spoke to the special counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to the president — providing a kind of road map for retaliation.
The discussions between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers have also added to questions about the propriety of the decisions by Attorney General William P. Barr since he received Mr. Mueller’s findings late last month.
Mr. Barr and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, determined that Mr. Trump did not illegally obstruct justice and said the special counsel found no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia’s 2016 election interference. Mr. Barr told lawmakers that officials were “spying” on the Trump campaign, raised ominous historical parallels with the illegal surveillance of Vietnam War protesters and pointedly declined to rebut charges that Mr. Mueller’s investigators were engaged in a “witch hunt.”
Spokespeople for the White House and the Justice Department declined to comment. Mr. Barr, who plans to hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to discuss the special counsel’s report, refused to answer questions from lawmakers last week about whether the department had given the White House a preview of Mr. Mueller’s findings.
The Justice Department plans to turn the report over to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon on CDs, and it will be posted on the special counsel’s website sometime after, according to a senior department official. Though the delivery method might sound outdated, it is not unusual for lawmakers to receive large tranches of government information on the discs.
Much is at stake for Mr. Barr in Thursday’s expected release, especially if the report presents a far more damning portrayal of the president’s behavior — and of his campaign’s dealings with Russians — than the attorney general indicated in the four-page letter he wrote in March. That letter generated anger among some members of Mr. Mueller’s team, who believed it failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and have told associates that the report was more troubling for Mr. Trump than Mr. Barr indicated.
His plans to black out sensitive information in the report have drawn complaints, particularly from Democrats who have demanded the document’s full text.
Justice Department rules do not require Mr. Barr to make the special counsel’s report public, and the attorney general’s defenders say he will fulfill pledges of transparency he made during his confirmation hearings to make as much of the document public as possible.
A significant portion of the report will be readable, a government official said. Still, any redaction, no matter how minuscule, could omit information crucial to understanding what investigators uncovered.
Even a redacted report is likely to answer some of the outstanding questions about Russia’s attempts to sabotage the election; contacts between Kremlin intermediaries and the Trump campaign; and the president’s efforts to derail the investigation.
Mr. Mueller’s report examines each episode that was part of the president’s attempts to undermine the investigation, Mr. Barr wrote in his letter.
Investigators focused on whether the president used his position atop the executive branch to impede…