Whenever Donald Trump does something, there’s always conjecture about why he did it. The latest tweet announced the resignation of White House Counsel Donald McGahn. Conspiracy theorists note that the announcement was just one week after it was reported that McGahn had spoken with Special Counsel Robert Mueller for more than 30 hours.
Trump was actually “scooped” by the site Axios.
Top White House officials and sources close to White House counsel Don McGahn tell Axios that McGahn will step down this fall — after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, or after the midterms. The president later confirmed Axios’ reporting in a tweet.
The big picture: This potentially puts a successor in charge of fielding a blizzard of requests or subpoenas for documents and testimony if Democrats win control of the House in the midterms. And if the White House winds up fighting special counsel Robert Mueller, an epic constitutional fight could lie ahead.
We’re told that Trump has not formalized a successor.
But McGahn has told a confidant he would like his successor to be Emmet Flood, a Clinton administration alumnus who joined the White House in May to deal with the Russia probe.
Flood also served for two years during George W. Bush’s second term as his top lawyer handling congressional investigators. . .
Most importantly, sources familiar with their interactions say Flood has — as well as any lawyer can — figured out how to talk to Trump.
The president focuses his attention when Flood talks to him: Trump reacts to the authority Flood carries as a heavyweight lawyer handling the topic that potentially poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency. .
McGahn has told a confidant that he doesn’t expect to leave Trumpworld entirely after he leaves the White House. He privately said he expects to continue to be of assistance to the president through the re-election campaign.
There were rumors that McGahn was quitting last year, because of Trump’s hints that he’d fire Mueller.
White House counsel Don McGahn has been a Trump loyalist since the early days of Trump’s presidential campaign. That didn’t stop him from threatening to quit last summer when President Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller. . .
It’s in some ways surprising to learn that McGahn would stand up to the president so strongly, especially on an issue as politically controversial as the Mueller probe. . .
And this isn’t the first time McGahn threatened to resign over Trump’s legally troublesome actions. The Wall Street Journal reported last September that McGahn almost quit the White House because Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner kept defying official protocols by meeting together. Both men are under investigation by Mueller, and McGahn reportedly feared that investigators might think Trump and Kushner coordinated their stories ahead of meetings with them.
The announcement of the actual resignation came about a week after the news that McGahn had spoken to Mueller for more than 30 hours, according to The Hill.
McGahn has reportedly discussed accounts of multiple episodes at the center of Mueller’s probe into whether President Trump obstructed justice. Sources told the Times that McGahn has had three voluntary interviews with Mueller’s team totaling 30 hours.
Among the episodes McGahn reportedly discussed with investigators is Trump’s firing last year of former FBI Director James Comey and the president’s repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of the special counsel despite his recusal from Russia probes.. . .
White House counsel Donald McGahn has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in his probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to an explosive New York Times report published Saturday.
McGahn began cooperating with Mueller’s team last year after Trump’s first round of personal lawyers decided to give investigators as much information as possible, believing the president had nothing to hide, the newspaper noted.
However, the Times reports that McGahn became concerned over his growing exposure in the investigation and began to suspect the president was setting him up to take the fall for any alleged obstruction of justice.
As The Hill noted, McGahn may have feared that Trump was setting him up to take a fall over any crimes Mueller might find—in the same way Richard Nixon left his aide, John Dean, to “twist slowly in the wind.” Trump called Dean a “rat,” for helping to bring down Nixon, although most people respect Dean, not Nixon. Dean is still alive, and we see that Trump’s disgust with Dean is mutual.
Dean tweeted Saturday night in response to the Times story: “Trump, a total incompetent, is bungling and botching his handling of Russiagate. Fate is never kind to bunglers and/or botchers! Unlike Nixon, however, Trump won’t leave willingly or graciously.”
He added Sunday in response to Trump’s tweets that he doubts the president has “ANY IDEA what McGahn has told Mueller. Also, Nixon knew I was meeting with prosecutors, b/c I told him. However, he didn’t think I would tell them the truth!”
Regardless of timing, McGahn’s resignation may not have been Trump’s idea. McGahn’s main job was to push through ultra-conservative justice nominations. That’s mostly done. And it’s likely that it will be a very tricky (and dangerous) job to deal with any new allegations from the Mueller probe. Also, if Democrats take over the House, there will be problems of another kind.
The point is that Politico wrote way back in March that McGahn planned to leave this fall.
“I think it’s all up in the air,” said a source close to McGahn. “I think he’d like to quit very much. The president doesn’t want him to quit. The president wants him to stay. I don’t think he knows who will replace him.”. . .
The Trump-McGahn relationship is by many accounts a complicated one. Two sources said they speak infrequently. Another noted that McGahn remains close to White House chief of staff John Kelly and that Trump does indeed rely on his top counsel.
“It’s hard to explain, but I think [Trump] values Don and his advice, and part of it is that Don is probably one of the only people who’s ever said ‘no’ to him,” one of the McGahn associates said.
A list of candidates to replace McGahn remains a work in progress. . .Said one former senior White House lawyer, “Coming in now, it would take a brave soul.”