Throughout Mueller’s 448-page report are cases of White House aides resisting Trump’s directives, sparing him even more legal and political peril. Aides would stand up to Trump and refuse to carry out certain orders, or they’d simply ignore him, often in the hope that he’d forget the demand. In doing so, they protected Trump from his own worst instincts and potentially a more damning conclusion from Mueller’s team of prosecutors. Mueller himself noted the irony in a passage centering on the obstruction-of-justice 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,” he wrote.
All the aides who defied Trump have long since departed. Gone, too, are some of the guardrails they erected to keep Trump out of trouble. In their absence, Trump has installed more pliant senior advisers, meaning the nation could see more of the ill-considered and ultimately self-sabotaging behavior that Mueller chronicled in his nearly two-year investigation.