Trump's Attempted Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice?
The Mueller Report was released to the public on Thursday morning, and descriptions of some of its more notable findings were quick to follow.
We knew ahead of time that we weren't going to learn of any new crimes (even though some folks in the liberal media were probably hoping otherwise), and that the president was innocent of colluding with the Russians during the 2016 election. Nonetheless, there was some pretty intriguing information revealed.
Along with confirmation that a number of past media reports that Trump had dismissed at the time as "fake news" were actually true, we learned some things about obstruction.
No, Mueller did not have sufficient grounds for charging President Trump with obstruction of justice in regard to the investigation. But according to the report, Trump really really really wanted to obstruct justice.
And he likely would have, had it not been for the (sometimes strenuous) efforts of those within his inner circle.
This included K.T. McFarland, who declined Trump's directive that she draft a letter clearing him of having asked Michael Flynn to discuss sanction relief with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (an issue the FBI was looking into). McFarland's refusal came with good reason: she had no idea whether or not that statement was true. Trump wanted her to write it anyway.
The president actually instructed Dan McGahn (White House Counsel) to have Robert Mueller fired, and to say it was because Mueller had conflicts of interest. McGahn refused, saying that he would rather resign than trigger what he would have considered a "Saturday Night Massacre."
When the media later found out about Trump's order to McGahn, the president directed McGahn to lie about it. Again, McGahn refused.
Trump tried to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russian investigation, and when Sessions did so anyway, Trump (both privately and publicly) repeatedly pressured Sessions to reverse his decision. He even wrote an incriminating letter and told campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to deliver the it to Sessions.
From the report:
"The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was 'very unfair' to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and 'let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections."
Lewandowski, understanding the inappropriateness and possible illegalities, chose not to deliver the letter. When Trump told him a second time to do it, Lewandowski verbally agreed to, but instead asked White House official Rick Dearborn to take care of it. Dearnborn was uncomfortable delivering the message as well, and ultimately declined to follow through with it. There are other examples of Trump trying to limit the scope of the investigation and not comply with document requests, in which cases members of his crew stepped in and talked him down off the ledge. There were also instances of Trump suggesting pardons for Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen as they were presumably being pressured by prosecutors to give up dirt on Trump. Of course, that didn't end up happening.
In summary, as written in the report:
"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 acceded to his requests."
Call me crazy, but I'm thinking our president — despite his often repeated claims to the contrary — doesn't have "the best instincts."
Had it not been for some common sense from those around him, in refusing Trump's directives to impede the investigation, there would have been a far stronger case for Mueller to charge the president with obstruction. These folks really did save their boss from himself.
Let's hope, at some point, that Trump sent these individuals some thank you cards. It would seem only right.