President Donald Trump attempted to influence special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but ultimately failed because aides refused to comply with his orders.
The special counsel’s report, which was released Tuesday, identified four separate occasions in which White House officials or senior members of the executive branch did not effectuate Trump’s commands to fire Mueller or change the parameters of his investigation.
“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,” the report reads.
“The evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the president’s aides and associates beyond those already filed,” the report adds.
The report cites four instances in which top White House aides or executive branch officials refused to obey Trump’s directives respecting the investigation.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn features prominently in two such episodes. The New York Times reported that Trump ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel in June 2017 for purported conflicts of interest. McGahn threatened to resign rather than execute the order. The Mueller report confirmed the accuracy of that story.
When the Times report appeared in January 2018, three intermediaries approached McGahn on Trump’s behalf and asked that he deny the article’s claims. McGahn refused. Trump later met privately with McGahn and asked that he repudiate the Times report, but McGahn insisted that his memory was accurate and the article correct.
After his failed attempt to dismiss Mueller, Trump asked his erstwhile campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to communicate to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he should restrict the scope of Mueller’s inquiry to “election meddling for future elections.”
In turn, Lewandowski asked deputy White House chief of staff Rick Dearborn to relay that message to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the request and did not communicate the message.
Finally, as has been widely reported, Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to curtail the Bureau’s investigation of former National Security adviser Michael Flynn. Like McGahn and Dearborn, Comey did not follow Trump’s instructions. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about the substance of his communications with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Mueller’s report concluded that the president had resolved to fire Comey in May 2017, shortly after the director declined to answer questions as to whether Trump was under investigation while testifying before a congressional committee.
The president’s re-election campaign cast the report as a victory, insisting Trump was exonerated of wrongdoing.
“President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again,” said campaign manager Brad Parscale. “Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.”
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