Apr 19, 2019

Trump's obstruction salvation: Disobedient staff

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Mueller report portrays President Trump as repeatedly trying to commit obstruction, only to have his staff ignore him, saving him from himself.

Why it matters: Trump often acted like a bystander during the special counsel's investigation, venting his frustration on Twitter and with reporters.

  • But a striking theme of the report is what an active player he was in the behind-the-scenes drama.
  • Trump often tried to orchestrate outcomes, then found himself thwarted by a system that was beyond his direct control.
  • "In early summer 2017," the report says, "the President called [then-Attorney General Jeff] Sessions at home and again asked him to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. Sessions did not reverse his recusal."

The report lists rat-a-tat examples of times that aides and advisers slow-walked or rebuffed Trump suggestions and orders, insulating him from obstruction:

  • Former FBI Director Jim Comey "did not end the investigation of [national security adviser Michael] Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI."
  • White House counsel Don McGahn "did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order."
  • Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn "did not deliver the President’s message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only."
  • "And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so."

Here's a previously unknown episode, with the sort of colorful detail that peppers the report:

  • "In early July 2017, the President asked Staff Secretary Rob Porter what he thought of Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. Porter recalled that the President asked him if Brand was ... 'on the team.'"
  • "Contemporaneous notes taken by Porter show that the President told Porter to 'Keep in touch with your friend.'"
  • "Porter did not contact Brand because he was sensitive to the implications ... and did not want to be involved in ... an effort to end the investigation or fire the Special Counsel."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

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Gilead expands access to experimental coronavirus drug in emergency cases

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said in an open letter Saturday the company is expanding access to its experimental anti-coronavirus drug remdesivir to include severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

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