When a competent and corrupt boss urges subordinates to cross ethical or legal lines, they comply, sealing a corrupt bond. For Trump though, the subordinates declined, demurred or flat out refused. McGahn threatened to resign, and Trump backed down. Lewandowski fobbed off his errand to an underling, who ended up ignoring the order. McFarland made it known that she felt uncomfortable drafting a statement she didn’t know to be true.

All of this is relevant to the open questions raised but not answered by Mueller’s report regarding obstruction of justice. Mueller details 10 incidents that may have risen to the level of obstruction, but makes no judgment on the president’s culpability. He is neither indicted nor exonerated.

This obscures the central fact that all of Trump’s attempts to influence the Russia investigation backfired. He dictates a false press release on the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer and his senior campaign team. Then the New York Times publishes the actual emails promising dirt on Hillary Clinton to set up that ill-fated meeting.