By David Alexander and Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump dismissed questions from reporters on Monday about his staff’s reluctance to carry out his orders and the chances of impeachment proceedings in the U.S. Congress, days after the Mueller report highlighted both issues.
The 448-page report from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election revealed staff and associates sometimes ignored requests from Trump to deliver messages, including one to fire Mueller.
“Nobody disobeys me,” Republican Trump said when asked if he was worried about his orders not being followed. He made the remark at the White House during an annual Easter celebration.
Mueller’s report said that the 22-month investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians during the 2016 election campaign, but Mueller did find “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.”
According to the report, White House Counsel Don McGahn had been on the brink of resigning when Trump told him to ask Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. Trump then denied using the word “fire,” according to McGahn’s retelling to Mueller.
Trump lashed out at the report on Twitter later on Monday.
“Isn’t it amazing that the people who were closest to me, by far, and knew the Campaign better than anyone, were never even called to testify before Mueller,” Trump wrote.
Mueller’s report drew upon interviews, notes and communications with Trump advisers. Trump’s personal lawyer during the campaign, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to crimes as did campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mueller’s report drew upon dozens of interviews, notes and communications with White House advisers.
Asked on Monday whether he was concerned about the threat of impeachment on allegations of obstruction of justice as some Democrats have called for, Trump said, “Not even a little bit.”
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, on Friday said Congress should begin the process of removing Trump from office. Other Democratic leaders have played down talk of impeachment, just 18 months before the 2020 election.
Republicans have stood by Trump and while an impeachment effort might succeed in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, it was unlikely to do so in the Republican-led Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday House Democrats’ views vary on how to proceed.
Trump, speaking from the White House balcony on Monday, returned to favourite topics of his by touting the strong United States economy and saying his administration was rebuilding the military “to a level never seen before.”
“Our country is doing fantastically well, probably the best it has ever done economically,” he said.
(Reporting by David Alexander and Alexandra Alper; writing by Caroline Stauffer; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Grant McCool)