One unlikely witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s extensive probe is White House counsel Don McGahn.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Don McGahn has been repeatedly speaking with Mueller over the past nine months. According to the Times’ sources, which include roughly a dozen current and former unnamed White House officials, the White House counsel provided more than 30 hours of testimony to the special counsel’s team regarding his probes into obstruction of justice and collusion:
Mr. McGahn gave to Mr. Mueller’s investigators, the people said, a sense of the president’s mind-set in the days leading to the firing of Mr. Comey; how the White House handled the firing of the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn; and how Mr. Trump repeatedly berated Mr. Sessions, tried to get him to assert control over the investigation and threatened to fire him.
Don McGahn’s cooperation with the Mueller probe likely began after Trump initially tried firing the special counsel just a month after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him in 2017. At the time, McGahn apparently told Trump that if he went through with his decision, McGahn would have no choice but to resign as White House counsel.
Trump allowed McGahn to testify to Mueller without first asking the White House counsel what he was planning to divulge to prosecutors. While President Trump could have asserted attorney-client privilege beforehand to find out what his top lawyer was going to tell Mueller, he didn’t do so. McGahn apparently viewed his role as White House counsel as that of protecting the presidency, rather than the president, according to the Times.
The Times’ groundbreaking Saturday report about Don McGahn and his cooperation with the special counsel is particularly noteworthy given the historical comparisons to the Nixon administration. During the Watergate scandal, then-White House counsel John Dean was implicated in the destruction of evidence following the break-in at the Watergate complex. He eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 1973 and served four months in prison. He was eventually disbarred and banned from practicing law in Virginia and Washington, DC.
As of this writing, President Trump has not yet tweeted about McGahn’s cooperation with the special counsel. However, Trump recently attacked Mueller’s probe, calling it “a rigged witch hunt.”
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.