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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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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • As you spend this Memorial Day weekend celebrating with your friends and family, its important to remember that the freedom many of our nation's heroes have fought and died for always comes at a price. Well in honor of the occasion, as you would expect, here are some freebies and deals through Memorial Day that veterans, active duty and retired military members and their families can take advantage of( standard disclaimer: some locations may not be participating, so its important to always contact them ahead of time):  Ace Hardware: While supplies last, you can get a free 8 by 12 inch flag on May 25th.  AAA: Through Tuesday, you can get free tipsy low service.  Apple: They have special offers on their products, including their Apple Care Protection Plans.  Cinemark Theatres: It varies by location, but if you show your military ID, you get a special discount.  Delta Airlines: Military personnel get a free bag check.  Home Depot and Lowe's: Veterans and their families get 10 percent off. Just show your ID  Hooters: Show your military ID on May 27th and you can get free entrees including 10 free boneless wings, Buffalo chicken salad, Hooters Burger or a Buffalo Chicken sandwich.  Longhorn Steakhouse: Check out the coupon below to get a free appetizer or dessert when you get an entree through May 26th.  https://www.longhornsteakhouse.com/customer-service/coupons/free-app-or-dessert-with-2-entrees-lh74-052319?cmpid=br:lh_ag:ie_ch:eml_ca:LHQ419L52COUP_dt:20190523_vs:1NV_in:Specials_pl:image01_FreeApp_rd:9bc86910b47843f7a15abeafd3d66e28  Sea World and Busch Gardens: The Waves of Honor program gives free entry to military families and members with their ID through December 31st. TGI Fridays: Check out the coupon to a free entree when you buy one and two drinks from May 25-27.  https://share.rivet.works/fridays
  • An ex-Magic Kingdom worker from Clermont has been arrested, accused of trying to set up a sexual encounter with an 8 year old girl.  According to the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, Frederick M. Pohl Jr.  sent inappropriate pictures of himself to what he believed was the 8 year old girl and talked online with her and her father in order to arrange a meeting. When he arrived at an Orlando hotel that they were supposed to meet at, Pohl was arrested by an undercover federal agent who was the one posing as the girl he was talking to.  According to the submitted criminal complaint, Pohl was in possession of condoms and a child sized pink dress. While the Middle District did confirm that he was an employee at the Magic Kingdom, they did not say what his role was.
  • A man who was shot and killed in an officer-involved shooting outside a mosque in South Florida on Friday was wanted in Osceola County for attempted murder, according to law enforcement officials. >> Read more trending news  The U.S. Marshals Service Florida and Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force were involved in the shooting at the parking lot of the Masjid Al-Iman mosque in Fort Lauderdale. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said the man who was shot was Hamid Ould-Rouis, 58, who was wanted for attacking two people at a home on Luminous Loop in Kissimmee on Thursday.  Deputies said Ould-Rouis entered the home and battered a man before attacking a woman with a knife. The woman is in a hospital in critical condition, deputies said. Marshals said they were attempting to arrest Ould-Rouis, but a threat posed by him prompted members of the task force to fire their weapons. There is no indication that the mosque is related to the incident, officials said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.
  • A man who was shot and killed in an officer-involved shooting outside of a South Florida Mosque Friday afternoon was wanted in Osceola County for attempted murder. According to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, Police in Broward County and U.S. Marshals had been looking for Hamid Ould-Rouis,58, who was accused of beating up a man and stabbing a woman nearly to death in a Kissimmee home early Thursday. The woman remains hospitalized in critical condition.  Members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force tracked him to the parking lot near the Masjid Al Iman mosque, in Fort Lauderdale. When he got out of a black SUV with a weapon, several officers opened fire. He died on the scene.  There is no indication that the mosque is related to the incident, officials said.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.
  • Game dates and kickoff times for Orlando’s Camping World Bowl and Citrus Bowl games were announced Thursday as part of ESPN’s 2019-20 college football bowl schedule. This year, the Camping World Bowl, which traditionally features teams from the ACC and Big 12 conference will be broadcast on ABC for the first time in the bowl’s 30-year history.  It is set for Saturday, December 28 at Noon.  Last year’s contest saw Syracuse beat West Virginia 34-18 which helped guide the Orange to a 10-3 record, the team’s best finish since 2001.  The Citrus Bowl, which typically features teams from the ACC, SEC and Big Ten conference will continues its News Years Day tradition, kicking off at 1 o' clock on January 1, 2020.  It will also be broadcast on ABC.  In last year’s game, Kentucky defeated Penn State 27-24.  “We are thrilled to present two big-time bowl games from Orlando on national television this season,” Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase the Central Florida community twice in five days this postseason.”  The Cure Bowl, Orlando’s third bowl game, had already announced that this years game will be played at Orlando City Stadium, on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Washington Insider

  • Victims of Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters will have to wait into next month for Congress to give final approval to a $19.1 billion relief bill, as final passage of the plan in the House was blocked on Friday by a lone Republican lawmaker, forcing a delay until Congress returns for legislative business in the first week of June.   “I respectfully object,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a more conservative Republicans who stayed in town after the House had completed its legislative business on Thursday, and came to the floor Friday morning to object to acting on the plan without a full roll call vote.   The House had approved $19.1 billion in disaster aid in early May; the Senate on Thursday amended the plan with the backing of President Trump – but it wasn’t good enough to get unanimous consent for approval in the House. “If I do not object, Congress will have passed into law a bill that spends $19 billion of taxpayer money without members of Congress being present here in our nation’s capital,” Roy said on the House floor, forcing a further delay on the disaster aid measure. One of Roy’s objections was that no money was included in the plan for the immigrant surge along the southern border - President Trump had backed off of that in order to secure a deal on Thursday. Roy’s maneuver drew the scorn of fellow Republicans from states which are need of aid - like Georgia - where farmers suffered devastating losses from Hurricane Michael. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) tweeted that “our farmers need aid today,” as this move by his GOP colleague will delay that process into June, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of fellow Republicans with farmers in need of assistance.   Democrats were furious. “House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill is an act of staggering political cynicism,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  “Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need,” Pelosi added in a statement. “This is a rotten thing to do,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who noted to reporters that Roy was blocking aid for his own home state of Texas. “We should have passed this months ago,” said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), who asked for approval of the measure on the House floor. “I am beyond fed up. This is wrong,” said Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA).  “This bill is about helping people – not about playing Washington politics.” “Republican politicians are playing games while people’s homes are literally underwater,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).   Unless Republicans relent next week, the House would not be able to set up a vote on the disaster aid measure until the week of June 3. “There are people who are really hurting, and he’s objecting,” Shalala said.  “He’s holding hostage thousands of people.”  The House has two ‘pro forma’ meetings scheduled for next week - on Tuesday and Friday.  Republicans could object to passing the bill at those times as well.