Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is rife with examples of President Donald Trump issuing orders that were disregarded by aides because they were perceived to be either unwise or illegal, The Atlantic reports. Mueller’s report includes a number of such examples, where White House staff not only failed to follow through on the president’s orders, but in fact had no intention of every doing so.
In one of these examples, Immigration and Customs Enforcement pushed back on Trump’s plan to bus migrants seeking asylum to so-called “sanctuary cities,” a politically-charged idea that Trump intended to enact as part of his ongoing dispute with congressional Democrats over the issue of immigration. In another example, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen refused to follow Trump’s instructions to simply turn away migrants seeking asylum, an order that would have been demonstrably illegal. Nielsen has since left the administration.
Both cases represent examples of administration officials refusing to comply with the president’s wishes on major policy matters. It is not, however, only matters of policy where Trump is reportedly finding pushback from his team. Mueller’s report expressly indicates that one of the reasons that Trump generally failed to interfere with the Russia investigation was that his aides refused to comply with requests along those lines.
“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 says.
Some instances of what could be described as either insubordination or demonstration of principles, depending on one’s point of view, played out quite publicly over the course of Mueller’s investigation.
Trump, for example, railed frequently against Jeff Sessions, then his attorney general, for Sessions’s recusal when it came to the Russia investigation, a decision which Trump allegedly repeatedly asked Sessions to reverse.
Similarly detailed in Mueller’s report is the claim that White House Counsel Don McGahn refused the president’s request to fire Mueller altogether before also refusing to write a letter denying Trump had asked him to do so. The report claims that McGahn was told that he could be fired as a result.
“McGahn dismissed the threat, saying that the optics would be terrible if the President followed through with firing him on that basis,” the report reads.
In any case, as Trump’s political future rests in the hands of Congress, who absent charges from the Justice Department, could take up articles of impeachment, staffers will doubtlessly have future opportunities to accept or deny the president’s wishes.