The myth of Donald Trump presents him as a man of authority, a beloved and feared ruler, a boss who demands loyalty – and gets it.
In fact, no one listens much to what Trump said and that could have saved his presidency, according to one of the most startling passages from the 448-page report of Special Advocate Robert Mueller, released on Thursday. .
"The president's efforts to influence the investigation have been largely unsuccessful," wrote Mueller, describing a possible criminal obstruction of justice, "but this is largely due to the fact that the people who surrounded the president refused to to follow up on his orders or to accede to his requests ".
If all the president's men failed Richard Nixon by losing control of their plot, the men and women of that president might have helped Trump by treating his conspiracy orders as exactly what they were, invitations to a likely criminal behavior and ignoring them properly.
"It's more than a bit ironic, despite all the talk of" the unitary executive "and the" deep state conspiracy ", that the refusal of Trump's staff and subordinates to make a great part of his orders could have helped to isolate the President finding firmer on the obstruction, " tweeted Steve Vladeck, professor at the Law School of the University of Texas.
Harry Sandick, a former US deputy attorney in the Southern District of New York, said it was not because the mutiny of his subordinates had apparently thwarted the president's efforts to obstruct justice that Trump was not guilty .
"With charges of obstruction, an attempt is worth as much as the crime," Sandick said. "You do not have to clog, you just have to try to obstruct, to try to interfere. And it's clear from the report that Mueller thinks Trump did indeed try to filibuster.
Mueller is pointing out that Trump has this close to succeed. One of them refused to ask for success in his efforts to obstruct the justice system. I do not think it means that, as a result of what happened, Trump is now innocent. "
Mueller enumerates the moments when his subordinates challenged him:
FBI Director James Corney did not end an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, despite Trump's suggestion to do so.
The White House council, Don McGahn, did not tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Mueller should be removed from office, despite the order given by Trump.
Assistants Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn did not convey the message to the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, calling on him to limit the investigation of Russia to electoral interference alone, despite the order given by Trump.
McGahn refused to change his memories of the events surrounding Trump's instructions to withdraw Mueller, despite the many requests he had made.
McGuhn's role as Trump's flagship is presented in great detail by Mueller – no doubt thanks to McGahn's cooperation, in the form of at least three voluntary interviews totaling more than 30 hours over nine months.
A former federal election commissioner and associate at Jones Day, a prominent law firm, McGahn was supposed to be the ax man who would attack Mueller. On a Saturday of June 2017, Mueller writes that Trump called McGahn to his home and ordered him to call Rosenstein – Mueller's supervisor – and tell him that Mueller had an unresolved conflict of interest, paving the way for Mueller's dismissal.
"You have to do that," recalls McGahn. "You have to call Rod."
McGahn did not call Rod.
"McGahn considered the president's request as a point of inflection and he wanted to rein in it," Mueller writes.
Later, McGahn refused an order to deny in front of the public that the president had attempted to sack the special advocate. Mueller describes a tense meeting during which Trump asked McGahn why he was taking notes.
"What about these notes? Why are you taking notes? Trump would have said. "Lawyers do not take notes. I have never had a lawyer taking notes.
"McGahn replied that he kept notes because he was a" real advocate, "" Mueller writes.
When it seemed that the time had come for McGahn to resign, he announced the news to the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, but did not explain to Priebus why.
Priebus recalled that McGahn had said the president had asked him to "bullshit," Mueller wrote, but he thought McGahn had not explained to him the details of the president's request because McGahn was trying to protect Priebus from this. that he was not doing, should know. "
The world has long known that Trump has a problem of obedience. A book published last September by Bob Woodward described how Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ignored an order to assassinate the Syrian president and how one of the chief economic advisers, Gary Cohn, had stolen a letter from Trump to save a trade deal.
The same month, the New York Times published an editorial titled "a senior Trump administration official" who wrote: "The dilemma – which [Trump] He does not quite understand – it is because many of the senior officials in his own administration are diligently working from within to frustrate parts of his program and his worst inclinations. "
But it was unclear to what extent the disobedience of his collaborators could have isolated Trump from prosecution. While Mueller did his best to say that he was do not asserting that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Trump, he also clarified that it would have been subject to a much deeper legal danger if the army had marched in the indicated direction by the general.
Trump's staff was not a figure of unbroken integrity. Many followed the worst ideas of Trump, in the episodes revealed by Mueller. Flynn followed the instructions to try to get hold of stolen emails from Hillary Clinton. The former aide Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a crime related campaign financing allegedly led by Trump. Several former aides were found guilty of lying to investigators and other offenses.
"The investigation found that several people affiliated with the Trump campaign had lied to the office and Congress about their interactions with people affiliated with Russia and related issues," Mueller writes. "These lies have significantly hindered the investigation of Russian electoral interference."
In an episode of rare ignominy, even for Trump's circle, Sarah Sanders, the press officer, lied to the American people to carry out a smear campaign against Comey, who had just been fired.
Sanders told the press that Comey had lost the trust of his base, saying"Many FBI members have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the President's decision. I'm sure some people are disappointed, but I've certainly heard a lot of people, and it's just me, and I do not even know a lot of FBI members. "
The lie became richer in response to a follow-up question of one word: "Really?"
"Absolutely, like e-mails, text messages," Sanders lied. "A lot of people working at the FBI said they were very pleased with the president's decision."
Mueller says his statement is based on only one line: "Sanders acknowledged to the investigators that his remarks were not based on anything."