President Donald Trump, while out and about outside the White House for some Easter-related festivities, answered a question from a reporter by saying that “nobody disobeys his orders.” This is the complete opposite of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in his 448-page report that focused, in no small part, on Trump’s attempts to influence or thwart the Mueller investigation through directions to staffers.
Mueller a) confirmed that Trump attempted to influence the investigation and b) concluded that these attempts were “mostly unsuccessful.” Why? Because White House staffers, in Mueller’s words, “declined to carry out orders.”
The full quote from Mueller on the subject:
The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. [James] Comey did not end the investigation of [Michael] Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. [Don] McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. [Corey] Lewandowski and [Rick] Dearborn did not deliver the President’s message to [Jeff] Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so.
Reading between the lines here, staffers disobeying Trump’s orders affected Mueller’s not reaching a conclusion on the obstruction of justice issue.
The Don McGahn details were particularly explosive.
Mueller revealed that, on one occasion, McGahn declined to carry out the president’s orders so as to prevent a “Saturday Night Massacre.” On another occasion, Trump asked why McGahn told Mueller that he told him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn said that he couldn’t hide behind attorney-client privilege in this case. Trump also asked McGahn why he takes notes.
“Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” he said, pointing out that his former attorney, the infamous Roy Cohn, never took notes.
“I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes,” Trump said.
After these McGahn-related items in the Mueller report were widely reported, Trump responded on Twitter by characterizing statements in the “Crazy Mueller Report” as “total bullshit”:
Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called “notes,” when the notes never existed until needed. Because I never […] agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad). This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened…
[Image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]