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National Govt & Politics
Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe
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Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe

Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe

Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe

In a redacted 448 page report delivered to Congress Thursday by Attorney General William Barr, Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed a series of actions by President Donald Trump to rein in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, clearly stating that while Mr. Trump tried to undermine the Russia investigation, his efforts were stymied mainly because top aides and other government officials ignored his demands for action.

Prime among them was White House Counsel Don McGahn, who told investigators that the President ordered him to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June of 2017, soon after press reports emerged that the President was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice.

"McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre," referring to the  episode in the Watergate investigation where President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Later, when press reports emerged stating that the President has ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, the report says the President then 'directed White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed.'

McGahn again refused to follow the President's order - defying him in an Oval Office meeting.

"McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle," the report concluded.

There were other stories of top aides similarly ignoring the President, such as Corey Lewandowski, who was told by Mr. Trump to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly state that the Russia investigation was 'very unfair' to Mr. Trump.

First in June of 2017, then again a month later, Mr. Trump used a private meeting to press Lewandowski - an outside adviser - to get Sessions 'to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference.'

But like the White House Counsel, Lewandowski balked, and refused to follow the President's request, going so far as to ask a senior White House official - Rich Dearborn - to do the dirty work for him.

"Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through," the report stated.

The report also details how the President tried to lobby senior leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community to help him limit the Russia probe, as Mr. Trump complained to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, his daily intelligence briefers, and top officials at the National Security Agency.

In late March of 2017, the President complained directly to DNI Coats, who counseled that it would be best to allow the investigations to 'run their course,' and not interfere with the work of FBI Director James Comey.

While Coats did not tell investigators that he felt directly pressured to act, his top aides told a different story, that "Coats was upset because the President has asked him to contact Comey to convince him there was nothing to the Russia investigation."

Mr. Trump also called the head of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, to weigh in on the Russia investigation - a conversation that so alarmed Rogers and a top deputy that they immediately drafted a memo, and placed it in an NSA safe to memorialize the communications with the President, much as Comey had done after his own meetings with Mr. Trump.

Intelligence officials also said the President complained about the Russia investigation during his daily briefings, and asking for messages of support in the news media.

"On at least two occasions, the President began Presidential Daily Briefings by stating that there was no collusion with Russia and he hoped a press statement to that effect could be issued," the report said.

NSA chief Rogers recalled a private talk with Mr. Trump where the President vented his frustration, "and said something like the 'Russia thing has got to go away.'"

In another example from July of 2017, President Trump was ready to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but encountered resistance from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

"Even though Priebus did not intend to carry out the President's directive, he told the President he would get Sessions to resign," the report stated.

Priebus later told the President that Sessions could not be ousted, because other top officials - including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand would also resign - setting off a Saturday Night Massacre type of situation for President Trump.

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Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe

In the end, the Mueller investigation found that top aides to the President had saved Mr. Trump from possible legal jeopardy, mainly by ignoring his demands on the Russia 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 Mueller report concluded.

Top Democrats in Congress immediately made clear they want more information about the obstruction matters.

"As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

Not surprisingly, the White House saw things differently, as the redacted version of the Mueller report was issued.

On the issue of collusion, the Mueller report stated the investigation 'identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign' - but that there was no evidence that the campaign had 'conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.'

Mueller seems likely to be asked directly about his investigation in May, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said he would ask Mueller to testify next month.

Attorney General Barr is already scheduled for two days of testimony before the House and Senate on May 1 and May 2.

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  • A senior White House official on Sunday confirmed that President Donald Trump has raised the issue of the United States possibly trying to buy the island of Greenland from Denmark, even though Danish officials say the North Atlantic outpost is not for sale. 'Greenland is a strategic place,' top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said at the end of an interview with Fox News Sunday, acknowledging that the President is interested. 'The President - who knows a thing or two about buying real estate - wants to take a look,' Kudlow added. The comments came even as officials in Denmark and Greenland said the island was not for sale. Kudlow noted that President Harry Truman had raised the same possibility when he was in office, but the idea went nowhere. 'We're open for business, not for sale,' said Greenland's official representative to the U.S. in a tweet. Reaction from Congress to the news reports about the idea of buying Greenland was muted. GOP Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee said on Twitter that he wouldn't support such an idea during a time of budget deficits. “I think it's Trump's Folly,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The New York Daily News may have had the most fun with the story, printing a headline on Saturday which echoed one of the tabloid's most famous headlines ever.
  • The maker of the painkiller OxyContin has agreed to provide access to proprietary research and other data to researchers at Oklahoma State University. The goal is to find causes and treatments for drug addiction.  Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma announced the agreement Thursday in a statement with the university.  Purdue said it will provide Oklahoma State's National Center for Wellness & Recovery access to 'research molecules and certain associated data' that will help with research into addiction. Purdue settled a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma for $270 million.  
  • In the aftermath of the mass shootings this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will meet in early September to act on a series of gun control measures, including ten round limits on ammunition magazines, red flag laws, and adding new reasons for blocking someone from buying a firearm. 'For far too long, politicians in Washington have only offered thoughts and prayers in the wake of gun violence tragedies,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 'Democrats in the House will continue to make good on our promise to work to keep our communities safe,' Nadler added, trying to put more pressure on Senate Republicans to act on gun bills approved by the House. 'House Democrats are serious about protecting our communities from the epidemic of gun violence,' said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). 'All of these gun violence prevention bills would save lives, and it’s really important that the House is taking action,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'We must act now to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country and keep our kids safe,' said freshman Rep. Joe Negeuse (D-CO). Democrats also tried to turn up the heat on GOP leaders in the Senate, where a bill to expand background checks to all private gun sales has been languishing for months. 'The Majority Leader should call the Senate back to Washington to debate and vote on gun violence legislation,' said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Some Democrats also want to force a vote on banning certain assault weapons - Congress approved such a measure back in 1994, but the expired after ten years. While the Congress isn't back for votes until the week of September 9, the announcement by the House Judiciary Committee will bring lawmakers back just after Labor Day for committee work - with the goal of votes on the various gun bills in the House later that month. 'Our community is relying on us to pass gun safety legislation, which is why we need a federal red flag policy to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,' said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA). Some Republicans quickly made clear their opposition to some of the gun plans from Democrats. 'The problem with Red Flag laws is you’re guilty until proven innocent,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). President Donald Trump has held talks with some Democrats on the issue of expanding background checks, but his language at a campaign rally on Thursday night in Manchester, New Hampshire did not signal any compromise on guns, as he focused more on the issue of mental health. “It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. It's the person holding the gun,” the President said. The bills on the schedule in September before the House Judiciary Committee include: + H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act. This bill would ban high capacity ammunition magazines. + H.R. 1236, the Extreme Risk Protector Order Act, designed to help states formulate 'Red Flag' laws. + H.R. 3076, the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which would allow people to go into federal court to take a firearm away from a mentally unstable person. H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act, which would add misdemeanor hate crimes to the list of items disqualifying someone from buying a weapon, under the current background check system. H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which stems from the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. In that case, the shooter was able to buy his firearms - even though he would have failed the background check - because the feds did not conduct a check within three business days. = Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.
  • Aiming to put his mark on the world map, President Donald Trump has talked to aides and allies about buying Greenland for the U.S. A Trump ally told The Associated Press on Thursday that the president had discussed the purchase but was not serious about it. And a Republican congressional aide said Trump brought up the notion of purchasing Greenland in conversations with lawmakers enough times to make them wonder, but they have not taken his comments seriously. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Still, it wouldn’t be the first time an American leader tried to buy the world’s largest island, an autonomous territory of Denmark. In 1946, the U.S. proposed to pay Denmark $100 million to buy Greenland after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for strategic parts of the Arctic island. Neither the White House nor Denmark immediately commented Thursday. Trump is set to visit Denmark next month. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
  • A day after the Israeli government refused to allow two Democrats in Congress to visit that nation this weekend, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) rejected a separate offer to visit her 90 year old grandmother on the West Bank, because Israeli officials would not allow her to speak out against the policies of the Netanyahu government during that trip. 'I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in - fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,' Tlaib wrote Friday morning on Twitter. 'Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me,' Tlaib said. The decision by the Michigan Democrat came a day after Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had been blocked by Israel from an official visit - but then, the Israeli government allowed Tlaib to visit, only if she did not voice her support for efforts to boycott Israel. In the end, Tlaib backed out. In order to visit the West Bank, Tlaib had to promise not to engage in criticism of the Israeli government. 'I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my vist,' Tlaib wrote in a letter to the Israeli Interior Minister on Thursday. But in the end, Tlaib could not stomach those restrictions, even as she said, 'This could be my last opportunity' to see her aging grandmother. - Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.

Washington Insider

  • A senior White House official on Sunday confirmed that President Donald Trump has raised the issue of the United States possibly trying to buy the island of Greenland from Denmark, even though Danish officials say the North Atlantic outpost is not for sale. 'Greenland is a strategic place,' top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said at the end of an interview with Fox News Sunday, acknowledging that the President is interested. 'The President - who knows a thing or two about buying real estate - wants to take a look,' Kudlow added. The comments came even as officials in Denmark and Greenland said the island was not for sale. Kudlow noted that President Harry Truman had raised the same possibility when he was in office, but the idea went nowhere. 'We're open for business, not for sale,' said Greenland's official representative to the U.S. in a tweet. Reaction from Congress to the news reports about the idea of buying Greenland was muted. GOP Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee said on Twitter that he wouldn't support such an idea during a time of budget deficits. “I think it's Trump's Folly,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The New York Daily News may have had the most fun with the story, printing a headline on Saturday which echoed one of the tabloid's most famous headlines ever.
  • In the aftermath of the mass shootings this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will meet in early September to act on a series of gun control measures, including ten round limits on ammunition magazines, red flag laws, and adding new reasons for blocking someone from buying a firearm. 'For far too long, politicians in Washington have only offered thoughts and prayers in the wake of gun violence tragedies,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 'Democrats in the House will continue to make good on our promise to work to keep our communities safe,' Nadler added, trying to put more pressure on Senate Republicans to act on gun bills approved by the House. 'House Democrats are serious about protecting our communities from the epidemic of gun violence,' said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). 'All of these gun violence prevention bills would save lives, and it’s really important that the House is taking action,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'We must act now to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country and keep our kids safe,' said freshman Rep. Joe Negeuse (D-CO). Democrats also tried to turn up the heat on GOP leaders in the Senate, where a bill to expand background checks to all private gun sales has been languishing for months. 'The Majority Leader should call the Senate back to Washington to debate and vote on gun violence legislation,' said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Some Democrats also want to force a vote on banning certain assault weapons - Congress approved such a measure back in 1994, but the expired after ten years. While the Congress isn't back for votes until the week of September 9, the announcement by the House Judiciary Committee will bring lawmakers back just after Labor Day for committee work - with the goal of votes on the various gun bills in the House later that month. 'Our community is relying on us to pass gun safety legislation, which is why we need a federal red flag policy to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,' said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA). Some Republicans quickly made clear their opposition to some of the gun plans from Democrats. 'The problem with Red Flag laws is you’re guilty until proven innocent,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). President Donald Trump has held talks with some Democrats on the issue of expanding background checks, but his language at a campaign rally on Thursday night in Manchester, New Hampshire did not signal any compromise on guns, as he focused more on the issue of mental health. “It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. It's the person holding the gun,” the President said. The bills on the schedule in September before the House Judiciary Committee include: + H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act. This bill would ban high capacity ammunition magazines. + H.R. 1236, the Extreme Risk Protector Order Act, designed to help states formulate 'Red Flag' laws. + H.R. 3076, the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which would allow people to go into federal court to take a firearm away from a mentally unstable person. H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act, which would add misdemeanor hate crimes to the list of items disqualifying someone from buying a weapon, under the current background check system. H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which stems from the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. In that case, the shooter was able to buy his firearms - even though he would have failed the background check - because the feds did not conduct a check within three business days. = Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.
  • A day after the Israeli government refused to allow two Democrats in Congress to visit that nation this weekend, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) rejected a separate offer to visit her 90 year old grandmother on the West Bank, because Israeli officials would not allow her to speak out against the policies of the Netanyahu government during that trip. 'I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in - fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,' Tlaib wrote Friday morning on Twitter. 'Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me,' Tlaib said. The decision by the Michigan Democrat came a day after Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had been blocked by Israel from an official visit - but then, the Israeli government allowed Tlaib to visit, only if she did not voice her support for efforts to boycott Israel. In the end, Tlaib backed out. In order to visit the West Bank, Tlaib had to promise not to engage in criticism of the Israeli government. 'I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my vist,' Tlaib wrote in a letter to the Israeli Interior Minister on Thursday. But in the end, Tlaib could not stomach those restrictions, even as she said, 'This could be my last opportunity' to see her aging grandmother. - Click here to read more stories from Jamie Dupree.
  • Offering no evidence to support a charge of major election fraud in the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump again claimed on Thursday that he lost the state of New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton because of widespread illegal voting, which he said involved 'thousands and thousands' of people coming in from other states to cast ballots against him. 'New Hampshire was taken away, it was taken away from us,' the President said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.  'We should have won New Hampshire,' he told the crowd. Before flying to New Hampshire, the President made the same claim - again without any evidence - as he stood on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One. 'New Hampshire should have been won last time, except we had a lot of people come in at the last moment,' as the President once again repeated a conspiracy theory that voters from Massachusetts and other states came en masse to New Hampshire to vote against him in 2016. Granite State officials said last year there was no evidence to support Mr. Trump's claim of fraud. Back in 2018, Mr. Trump told reporters that Massachusetts voters came 'by the hundreds' in buses to vote against him - this time, he said it was in the 'thousands.' 'Thousands and thousands of people, coming in from locations unknown,' the President added, as he ignored questions from reporters about where the illegal voters were from. In 2018, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner undertook a full review of the votes cast in New Hampshire in the 2016 election - flagging 142 cases of possible fraud, not the 'thousands' President Trump has talked about. The New Hampshire Attorney General's office in 2018 found there were examples of buses with out-of-state license plates transporting voters to the polls - but no evidence that the voters on board those buses were from actually from Maine, Vermont, or Massachusetts. During his time in office, President Trump has repeatedly raised questions about voter fraud, claiming in February of 2019 that there was widespread evidence in California of illegal voting. 'They found a million fraudulent votes,' the President told reporters at the White House, after being asked about a GOP election fraud case which invalidated a Congressional race won by Republicans in North Carolina. But instead of fraudulent votes being cast, California has been removing over 1 million 'inactive' voters from the rolls - people who were registered to vote, but who had not cast a ballot in several elections. Just this week, the President re-tweeted a claim from a conservative activist, Charlie Kirk, that said the state of California has more people registered than the number of eligible voters. But the facts don't back that up. 'I'll retweet this stupidity and debunk it, only because the President retweeted it,' said elections expert Tom Bonier on Tuesday, as he showed how Kirk was talking about 'inactive' registered voters. 'Inactive, meaning they haven't voted (and often their mail ballots have been returned as undeliverable),' Bonier tweeted.
  • The race for President in the Democratic Party shrank on Thursday, as former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced that he was ending his long shot bid for the White House, unable to get any traction in the polls and debates with his more moderate brand of politics. 'In almost every regard, this journey has been more exciting and more rewarding than I ever imagined,' Hickenlooper said in a video released by his campaign. 'Although, of course, I did imagine a very different conclusion,' Hickenlooper said with a smile. In the first debates in June and July, Hickenlooper had made little in the way of any impact on the Democratic race, as he tried to argue that his colleagues were moving too far to the left on a number of issues. 'I think that the bottom line is, if we don't clearly define that we are not socialists, the Republicans are going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists,' Hickenlooper said in the first NBC debate in Miami. Hickenlooper repeatedly tried to break through in the debates with that more moderate message. 'I share their progressive values, but I'm a little more pragmatic,' Hickenlooper said in the CNN Democratic debate in Detroit, as he made the case that Democrats needed to slow down on the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. 'Last year Democrats flipped 40 Republican seats in the House, and not one of those 40 Democrats supported the policies of our front-runners at center stage,' Hickenlooper said at the CNN debate, as he criticized major changes in health care proposed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others. 'You might as well Fed Ex the election to Donald Trump,' Hickenlooper said at the CNN debate. Unless there had been some kind of miraculous change in the trajectory of his candidacy, Hickenlooper was not going to qualify for the next two debates, as he was not registering in the polls, and not raising enough money. The Wall Street Journal also reported that Hickenlooper had spent more money in the last quarter than he raised - another red flag about a campaign which wasn't catching on. The lack of momentum for Hickenlooper was crystallized in a quiet moment at the CNN debate in Detroit that I witnessed. After participating in the first night of the CNN debate, Hickenlooper arrived at the press filing center the next morning to do interviews, but he attracted little in the way of attention from reporters as he walked through the work space with an aide. After chatting with former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Hickenlooper sat down at a press table to watch experts on CNN go over the first debate night. As he sat and watched the TV, his name wasn't mentioned for almost 15 minutes. To have candidates drop out at this point in the race for President is nothing unusual; it was happening four years ago at this time in the GOP race as well.