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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: 485655

Reported Deaths: 6558
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1007641586
Ramsey43106801
Dakota36297390
Anoka33293385
Washington22078256
Stearns18734201
St. Louis14805262
Scott13290107
Wright12526115
Olmsted1178988
Sherburne872872
Carver772640
Clay691587
Rice670491
Blue Earth594735
Kandiyohi579574
Crow Wing520681
Chisago499045
Otter Tail482170
Benton446490
Winona418349
Mower404731
Douglas392668
Nobles387047
Goodhue385768
Polk343162
McLeod339349
Beltrami337951
Morrison324547
Itasca313046
Lyon313044
Becker311342
Isanti306154
Steele300411
Carlton300149
Pine282016
Freeborn280723
Nicollet258641
Todd248030
Brown245037
Le Sueur235320
Mille Lacs227447
Cass220024
Waseca208717
Meeker207434
Martin189528
Wabasha18653
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15224
Renville149640
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134416
Wadena130920
Faribault123017
Aitkin118833
Sibley117310
Watonwan11738
Rock115714
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9448
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8045
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake74018
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68416
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned46768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362827

Reported Deaths: 5440
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58260551
Linn20670313
Scott18318210
Black Hawk16258292
Woodbury14979211
Johnson1384874
Dubuque13562194
Dallas1138690
Pottawattamie10791143
Story1024945
Warren556674
Clinton543784
Cerro Gordo533782
Webster519587
Marshall497272
Sioux494869
Buena Vista474537
Des Moines458861
Muscatine452291
Wapello4345108
Jasper417766
Plymouth395378
Lee375452
Marion359169
Jones294154
Henry293337
Carroll286249
Bremer280854
Crawford275135
Boone259730
Washington254347
Benton253854
Mahaska224746
Jackson221638
Dickinson217840
Tama213765
Kossuth208555
Clay193625
Hamilton192142
Delaware189140
Winneshiek189127
Buchanan185729
Fayette185235
Page183319
Hardin181439
Wright179931
Harrison179469
Cedar178523
Clayton168154
Butler167231
Mills163020
Floyd162741
Cherokee154836
Madison154718
Poweshiek154330
Hancock147130
Allamakee146747
Lyon145941
Iowa145023
Appanoose139247
Grundy139230
Jefferson138734
Winnebago138631
Cass134751
Calhoun133811
Mitchell130940
Louisa128241
Union126631
Chickasaw125215
Sac124618
Emmet121740
Shelby121733
Franklin118319
Humboldt117925
Guthrie116628
Palo Alto105221
Montgomery104136
Howard102921
Clarke100420
Unassigned9900
Keokuk98229
Monroe93328
Adair92128
Ida91432
Pocahontas85419
Davis83123
Monona81627
Greene77510
Lucas74021
Osceola70615
Worth6997
Taylor66612
Fremont5909
Decatur5829
Van Buren56118
Ringgold52320
Wayne48921
Audubon4889
Adams3274
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