President Trump announced Wednesday morning that White House Counsel Don McGahn would be leaving his post in the fall, hours after the administration deferred comments on an Axios report that stated McGahn would depart following Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s expected confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump tweeted. “I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!”
White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
McGahn’s decision to vacate his post so close to the midterm elections throws a wrench in the works for an administration facing the possibility of a Democratic House. Whoever fills his role will likely be tasked with the uncomfortable position of responding to a flood of subpoena and document requests from incoming Democrats eager to hurry along Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and allegations of collusion and obstruction by the president and his associates.
The decision also comes on the heels of reports that McGahn has begun cooperating “extensively” with Mueller on his investigation. According to a New York Times report earlier this month, McGahn has given Mueller’s team “at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months.”
During those interviews, McGahn reportedly described Trump’s anger over the investigation as well as the ways he had asked McGahn to deal with it — a boon to investigators examining allegations that Trump had worked to obstruct the probe by firing those involved.
“Among [the topics discussed] were Mr. Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and Mr. Trump’s obsession with putting a loyalist in charge of the inquiry, including his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of it. Mr. McGahn was also centrally involved in Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which investigators might not have discovered without him,” the Times reported.
In response to that report, Trump tweeted angrily that he had “allowed” McGahn to speak to investigators and suggested the entire probe was a witch hunt akin to “McCarthyism.”
“The failing [New York Times] wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’ But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to,” he wrote. “I have nothing to hide, and have demanded transparency so that this Rigged and Disgusting Witch Hunt can come to a close. So many lives have been ruined over nothing – McCarthyism at its WORST!”
McGahn’s departure also comes a little more than a year after he threatened to resign due to growing frustrations with the president and Trump’s desire to fire Mueller and end the special counsel investigation, the Times reported in January.
According to the outlet, in June 2017, McGahn, a longtime supporter of the president, refused Trump’s order to fire Mueller, stating he would quit before ever carrying out such a task. His refusal in turn prompted Trump to retreat.
More specifically, McGahn allegedly disagreed with the president’s claim that Mueller was conflicted due to a dispute he’d had with Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia years earlier (Mueller’s spokesperson has denied such a dispute ever happened); his previous work on behalf of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and the fact that he had previously interviewed to return to his post as FBI director, before being appointed special counsel.
“Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency,” the Times reported in January. “Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.”