August 29, 2018
President says McGahn, who cooperated with Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, will depart in autumn
Don McGahn: White House counsel to resign, Trump confirms
Don McGahn, the White House counsel, will resign from his position later this year, Donald Trump confirmed on Wednesday.
The US president was reported to have been troubled by the recent disclosure that McGahn had cooperated extensively with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.
McGahn voluntarily met with the special counsel’s team at least three times over nine months for a total of 30 hours interviews, the New York Times reported, and Trump’s personal legal team never asked for a detailed account of what he said.
McGahn worked as an attorney on Trump’s presidential campaign before taking his job in the White House. He is a former federal elections commissioner and a former partner at Jones Day, the powerhouse global law firm.
In the White House, McGahn helped Trump install conservative judges in top posts at a record rate, with successful confirmations of 12 appeals court judges, six district court judges and one supreme court justice, Neil Gorsuch.
“Don McGahn has led President Trump’s (incredibly successful) strategy on #Scotus and lower-court judicial nominations,” wrote David Lat, founder of the Above the Law blog, on Twitter. “Picking a successor who will continue this work is crucial for this administration.”
Trump said in a tweet that McGahn would depart in the autumn, by which time the administration hopes to have installed Brett Kavanaugh on the supreme court. McGahn has taken a leading role in handling Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!” Trump said.
While his intentions to step down were an open secret in the White House, McGahn was “surprised” by the timing of Trump’s announcement, the Washington Post reported, citing an unnamed person close to McGahn.
Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican chairman of the committee that reviews judge nominations and a noted Twitter user, objected to the announcement.
“I hope it’s not true McGahn is leaving WhiteHouse Counsel,” Grassley tweeted at Trump. “U can’t let that happen.”
McGahn took a lead role in the Trump administration assault on federal regulations of everything from carbon emissions to banking practices, touting the repeal of an Obama-era regulation preventing coal mine waste from entering waterways and another designed to make it easier for consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against predatory banks and credit card companies.
A former colleague of McGahn’s on the federal elections commission warned when McGahn was tapped for the White House post that he was unsuitable for the job, accusing McGahn of undermining the public interest in his time on the FEC.
“From the moment he walked in the door in 2008, McGahn made no secret of his disdain for the agency, its mission and the commission staff,” Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, wrote in the Washington Post. “Agency dysfunction was not a byproduct of McGahn’s approach – it was the goal.”
As White House counsel, McGahn played a central role in multiple incidents that could be central to the Russia investigation and which he is likely to have already testified about. He was the first White House figure to be warned by the FBI about then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s suspect contacts with Russian operatives.
McGahn also reportedly vetoed an as-yet-unseen letter Trump wrote in May 2017 explaining his original rationale for firing FBI director James Comey. Mueller may want to know whether the letter mentioned Russia as part of his apparently ongoing investigation of alleged obstruction of justice by Trump.
Before joining the administration McGahn was a guitarist in a Journey tribute band.
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