McGahn to leave job as White House counsel

President Donald Trump said in a tweet that Don McGahn will leave his job as White House counsel this fall following Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 10:37 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 10:56 PM

The official spin around the news -- confirmed by President Donald Trump -- that White House counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his post this fall goes something like this: We always expected Don to serve through the first two years of the administration. This is a very stressful job, and Don always said he wouldn't and couldn't stay in the role for the entire first term.

Which is, in part, true. Being the lead attorney in any White House is stressful. Being the lead attorney in the Trump White House is roughly equivalent to my stress level when one of my kids is the first performer at a piano recital.

But, but, but. Context matters -- HUGELY -- here.

And the context is this: We learned 11 days ago that McGahn had sat for interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller's team for more than 30 hours in the course of the investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election. We also learned that Trump himself was unaware that McGahn had spent so much time with Mueller's team, and that the White House more broadly was unaware of what exactly McGahn had told Mueller.

That news "unnerved" Trump, according to CNN reporting. This paragraph, from CNN's report on Trump's reaction to the McGahn news, is prescient and telling:

"The meetings only add complications to the already-fraught relationship between the President and the White House's top lawyer. And as nervous aides await a verdict in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's trial and watch with trepidation the inauspicious public relations blitz carried by lead attorney Rudy Giuliani, uncertainty surrounding the President's handling of the Russia investigation abounds."

While trying to downplay the news, Trump made clear that it irked him. "The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type 'RAT,'" Trump tweeted. "But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn't have to. I have nothing to hide."

When asked Wednesday whether he was worried about what McGahn told the special counsel, Trump said, "No."

"We do everything straight, we do everything by the book, and Don is an excellent guy," the President said.

Step back even beyond this month -- and think about the role McGahn has played in this White House. According to The New York Times, Trump tried to force McGahn to fire Mueller as special counsel last summer but ultimately backed down when McGahn refused to carry out the order. Trump also ordered McGahn to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself in the Russia investigation, according to the Times. (Sessions recused himself anyway.) And McGahn was the person that then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates sought out to inform him that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was lying about the nature of his contact with Russian officials -- and likely misled Vice President Mike Pence on that matter. (Trump fired Flynn for lying to Pence.)

So. What we know is that a man intimately involved in several of the most high-profile moments in the first 18 months of the Trump White House (and who was a legal adviser to Trump's campaign) is now leaving -- news that broke less than two weeks after the President was caught by surprise by McGahn's level of cooperation with the special counsel.

Or, let's make it even simpler: The man who single-handedly kept Donald Trump from firing Mueller is now leaving the White House, 11 days after the extent of his cooperation with that same special counsel was made public.

There is no such thing as coincidences that big in American politics. Just doesn't happen. McGahn -- and Trump -- knew exactly the sort of signal the announcement that McGahn was leaving would create. The reaction of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to the news sums up that sentiment nicely: "I hope it's not true McGahn is leaving White House Counsel," Grassley tweeted at Trump. "U can't let that happen."

(It's worth noting that Trump didn't announce the news on Twitter because he wanted to. He did so because Axios reported the news of McGahn's imminent departure early Wednesday morning.)

If McGahn's departure had nothing to do with the ongoing legal and political swirl created by the Mueller probe, he could have easily delayed his departure into the private sector for a few more months -- maybe lasting until after the Mueller report was released. He isn't. That's telling.

Make no mistake: None of this is "going according to plan" for the Trump administration. McGahn's departure takes an already difficult situation for this White House and this President and makes it that much tougher. No spin can change that basic fact.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604509

Reported Deaths: 7638
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1249671779
Ramsey52513897
Dakota46840471
Anoka42774458
Washington27428291
Stearns22557225
St. Louis18138313
Scott17551136
Wright16379149
Olmsted13399102
Sherburne1202095
Carver1067448
Clay826192
Rice8202110
Blue Earth762644
Crow Wing681795
Kandiyohi667985
Chisago619952
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475581
Mower470533
Winona461351
Itasca459763
Isanti440064
McLeod430661
Morrison424762
Beltrami407861
Nobles407650
Steele397816
Polk389072
Becker386755
Lyon363853
Carlton353056
Freeborn347033
Pine334923
Nicollet331245
Mille Lacs311854
Brown307840
Le Sueur297326
Cass286232
Todd285633
Meeker263443
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211221
Wabasha20793
Hubbard196641
Dodge18783
Renville182446
Redwood176539
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena163323
Fillmore157610
Faribault154719
Chippewa154038
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138937
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122712
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11306
Murray107110
Swift106918
Koochiching95418
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Lake83220
Wilkin83213
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5948
Lincoln5853
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48193
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371101

Reported Deaths: 6053
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58263640
Linn21221339
Scott20308248
Black Hawk16157312
Woodbury15240230
Johnson1462385
Dubuque13510211
Dallas1129199
Pottawattamie11228174
Story1071648
Warren583791
Clinton561593
Cerro Gordo554095
Sioux517574
Webster515894
Muscatine4882106
Marshall486976
Des Moines467672
Wapello4338122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth403181
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288461
Carroll287152
Boone268634
Crawford268240
Benton259855
Washington257351
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232651
Jackson225242
Clay216727
Kossuth216166
Tama212071
Delaware211143
Winneshiek198735
Page194522
Buchanan194033
Cedar192423
Hardin187544
Fayette186643
Wright186040
Hamilton181951
Harrison180073
Clayton171057
Butler166335
Madison164619
Mills163824
Floyd163442
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152952
Hancock150334
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137233
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131837
Sac130920
Union130035
Louisa129649
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124917
Franklin123523
Guthrie123332
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113623
Howard105022
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96732
Monroe96431
Unassigned9540
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7618
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Ringgold56424
Van Buren56318
Wayne54423
Audubon53311
Adams3444
Rochester
Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 64°
Mason City
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 63°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 63°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 64°
More storm chances this week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events