Trump’s request to have McGahn remove Robert Muller was listed as potential obstruction of justice in the Mueller report.
Don McGahn, a former White House counsel named in the Mueller report’s section on potential obstruction of justice by the Trump administration, rejected a request from President Trump to publicly declare that he doesn’t believe Trump obstructed justice.
McGahn, who left the Trump White House in 2018, provided Robert Mueller’s team with 30 hours of testimony over the course of the special counsel’s investigation into links between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign and potential obstruction of justice by the Trump administration.
As Vox’s Aaron Rupar explained, McGahn told Mueller the president asked him to fire the special counsel, something McGahn refused to do:
McGahn told Mueller that in June 2017 — one month after Mueller’s appointment — the president reacted to reports that Mueller was investigating him for obstruction of justice by calling him at home and “direct[ing] him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflict of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.”
In January 2018, the New York Times reported that Trump ordered McGahn to have the Justice Department fire Mueller the previous June. According to what McGahn told Mueller, Trump reacted to the report by asking McGahn to fabricate evidence that could be used to refute it.
“The President then directed [then-White House official Rob] Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel,” the report says. “McGahn shrugged off the request, explaining that the media reports were true.”
This incident was further investigated by Mueller, and was eventually included in his report as one of 10 times Trump may have obstructed justice.
Following the release of the Mueller report last month, the president wanted McGahn to publicly state that he did not consider the request to remove Mueller from the Russia investigation obstruction of justice, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal report.
McGahn refused to do so.
“We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister,” William Burck, McGahn’s personal attorney, said. “It was a request, professionally and cordially made.”
Sources told the Journal McGahn had several reasons for deciding not to make the statement.
First, he felt he had said everything he needed to say on the matter in his testimony to Mueller. Second, he didn’t want to further comment on that testimony, particularly in a brief way. Third, he felt any comment he could have made had already been rendered meaningless by Attorney General William Barr’s decision that the “evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
McGahn is a central figure in a subpoena fight between the Trump and Democrats
One Trump administration request McGahn has honored was refusing to comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena last week. The committee wants McGahn to turn over documents from his time as White House counsel.
The White House does not want these documents released to the committee, or anyone else, and Pat Cipollone, the current White House counsel, said that any documents in McGahn’s possession are protected by President Trump’s executive privilege.
New York’s Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, disagreed with this assessment, and threatened to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress. The House Judiciary Committee has already voted to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt.
“Mr. McGahn is required to appear and provide testimony before the committee absent a court order authorizing noncompliance, as well as provide a privilege log for any documents withheld,” Nadler said Tuesday. “Otherwise, the committee will have no choice but to resort to contempt proceedings to ensure that it has access to the information it requires to fulfill its constitutionally mandated duties.”
McGahn was expected to testify before Congress on May 21, but it is not clear if his hearing will go on as planned.
President Trump has dismissed Congressional investigations into his administration as politically driven and has instructed his subordinates to ignore subpoenas on more than 30 separate occasions.
“There is no reason to go any further,” Trump told the Washington Post. “Especially in Congress where it’s very partisan.”