The degree to which President Trump and his spinners have diverged from and lied about Robert S. Mueller III’s report should shock but not surprise us. Trump operates in a world of his own making, one in which he and Fox News spin a parallel set of facts that bear only passing resemblance to reality.
This is evident when Trump says things such as “Nobody disobeys my orders.” He claims he’s been “exonerated." This is balderdash. The Post lists a whole bunch of incidents in which aides declined to follow Trump’s orders:
- White House counsel Donald McGahn: Declined to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to fire Mueller.
- Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski: Declined to apply pressure on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the Russia probe.
- Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn: Declined to give Sessions a typed note Lewandowski gave him relaying the president’s message.
- Staff secretary Rob Porter: Declined Trump’s request to ask the No. 3-ranking official at the Justice Department, Rachel Brand, whether she wanted to be attorney general and take oversight of the Russia probe.
- Transition team leader Chris Christie: Declined to call FBI Director James B. Comey and tell him that Trump liked him.
- Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein: Declined to do a news conference after Comey’s firing saying it was his idea.
- Deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland: Declined to write an internal email stating Trump hadn’t told national security adviser Michael Flynn to talk during the presidential transition to the Russian ambassador about sanctions.
- Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats: Declined Trump’s request to say there was no link between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- Acting Attorney General Dana Boente: According to McGahn, Boente declined Trump’s request to state publicly that Trump wasn’t under investigation. (Boente said he didn’t recall this conversation.)
- Chief of Staff Reince Priebus: Declined to get Sessions to resign.
- Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn: Along with Porter, prevented Trump from pulling out of trade deals by pulling papers off his desk.
- Chief of Staff John F. Kelly: Along with Cohn, declined to lobby the Justice Department to prevent the AT&T-Time Warner merger.
- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Declined Trump’s request to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
- Mattis: Declined Trump’s request to provide military options for Iran.
- Unnamed officials: Ignored Trump’s directive to not endorse an agreement reached at the G-7 Summit.
One might also include Sessions’s refusal to knuckle under to Trump’s demands to un-recuse himself.
Likewise, Attorney General William P. Barr’s explanation that there was insufficient evidence of obstruction or that he was obliged to step forward to render his own judgment is entirely at odds with Mueller’s own report. Ben Wittes of Lawfare aptly summarizes Mueller’s thinking on this point: “We can’t indict Trump now and are thus deferring to Congress in the short term and creating a record for later prosecutorial assessment when the president leaves office. In other words, Mueller is not declining to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment; he is declining to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment now and leaving that task for someone else to do later.”
Both with regard to basic facts (aides disobeying orders) and with major conclusions (Mueller says he would have cleared Trump of obstruction if he could, but he can’t because there is plenty of evidence), some truth-telling is badly needed.
McGahn, in particular, can offer a powerful rebuttal to Trump’s delusional assertions. He both disregarded Trump’s order and reportedly sat with Mueller for 30 hours providing, we can surmise, detailed information for the obstruction section. The good news is that McGahn will get his chance.
On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) released a written statement, which announced: “Following the scheduled testimony of Attorney General William Barr on May 2, 2019 and the expected testimony of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which we have requested, the Committee has now asked for documents from Mr. McGahn by May 7, and to hear from him in public on May 21.” Nadler explained, “Mr. McGahn is a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Mueller report. His testimony will help shed further light on the President’s attacks on the rule of law, and his attempts to cover up those actions by lying to the American people and requesting others do the same.”
Nadler added, “The Special Counsel and his team made clear that based on their investigation, they were unable to ‘reach [the] judgment . . . that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice.’ As a co-equal branch of government, Congress has a constitutional obligation to hold the President accountable, and the planned hearings will be an important part of that process.”
McGahn, next to Mueller, may do more to puncture Trump’s web of lies than any witness. Trump has reason to panic that his bogus narrative is about to explode.