On Monday, President Donald Trump said this about the people who work for him: “Nobody disobeys my orders.”
Trump was reacting to the release of the Mueller report last week, which provided painstaking details about – among other things – Trump’s efforts to remove Robert Mueller as special counsel and to steeply curtail the scope of Mueller’s investigation.
It was in keeping with his I’m-a-tough-guy-and-no-one-crosses-me-and-gets-away-with-it persona.
But it was also in keeping with another common Trump trait: It isn’t true.
As Mueller wrote in his 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 accede to his requests.”
Below, a list of just some of the known instances in which Trump’s staff disobeyed a direct or indirect order from the President.
1. White House counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller
2. Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to un-recuse himself in the Russia investigation
3. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refused to tell Sessions to tell Mueller to limit the scope of his inquiry to only future election interference
4. FBI Director James Comey didn’t see a way to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn
5. Department of Homeland Security boss Kirstjen Nielsen refused to close the southern border
6. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson refused a litany of Trump’s requests; “Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way,” Tillerson later recounted. “It violates the law.”
7. Staff secretary Rob Porter refused to reach out to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand to see if she was sufficiently on Team Trump and, if so, might be interested in overseeing the special counsel investigation
8. McGahn refused to go back on his story that Trump had asked him to remove Mueller – and refused to write a letter for the White House with such a denial.
9. Defense Secretary James Mattis refused Trump’s exhortation to back the withdrawal of American troops from Syria. Mattis resigned instead.
10. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel refused Trump’s order to bus undocumented immigrants detained at the border to sanctuary cities in Democratic-held congressional districts.
11. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein refused Trump’s request to state publicly that his memo was the impetus for Comey’s removal
12. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus refused Trump’s order to find a way to fire Sessions
13. Deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland refused to write a memo making clear that Trump had not told Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russians prior to coming into office.
This is, of course, not a complete list. Rather, it’s more of a highlight reel. But you get the point: Trump’s claim about people never disobeying orders is, on its face, not just false, but ridiculous.
In a bit of twisted logic that seems a perfect fit for this administration, you can make a very strong case that Trump’s presidency was in fact saved by the fact that so many of his advisers – most notably McGahn – were willing to disobey him. Had McGahn carried out Trump’s order to fire Mueller, we would be talking about a very different presidency right now.