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Trump: I allowed McGahn to cooperate in probe

President Trump tweeted that he gave his approval for White House counsel Don McGahn to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller's team.

Posted: Aug 21, 2018 7:54 AM
Updated: Aug 21, 2018 8:25 AM

White House counsel Don McGahn's 30 hours of conversations with special counsel Robert Mueller's team have unnerved President Donald Trump, who didn't know the full extent of McGahn's discussions, two people familiar with his thinking said.

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.

Trump was spending another weekend at his New Jersey golf club when The New York Times first reported McGahn's cooperation with Mueller's office, which is investigating Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.

The President was unsettled by the notion that he didn't know everything McGahn said to the special counsel during their interviews, the sources said. And while he had approved the cooperation, Trump did not know the conversations stretched for 30 hours or that his legal team didn't conduct a full debriefing with McGahn after the fact.

Trump remained agitated for the rest of the weekend, the people said, believing the revelation made him look weak. Between conversations with his lawyers and a round of golf with Sen. Rand Paul, Trump lashed out on Twitter, decrying the suggestion he was caught off guard.

"I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn't have to. I have nothing to hide and have demanded transparency so that this Rigged and Disgusting Witch Hunt can come to a close," Trump wrote.

As his aides worked to react to the story, Trump insisted on portraying his relationship with McGahn -- one of his longest-serving aides with whom he's nonetheless clashed -- as ironclad.

"The President and Don have a great relationship," press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Saturday. "He appreciates all the hard work he's done, particularly his help and expertise with judges."

A White House official said Trump himself dictated the statement -- not an uncommon practice for the media-focused President, yet still an indication of his focus on the matter.

McGahn was on Capitol Hill Monday escorting Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to meetings when he was peppered with questions from reporters about his conversations with Mueller's team. The lawyer, dressed in a navy suit and bright blue tie, maintained a stony exterior and didn't answer, proceeding along with the nominee who could come to shape Trump's judicial legacy. It's the issue upon which McGahn has focused most intently in his tenure.

A tortured partnership brings some of Trump's biggest victories

His declaration of a "great relationship" aside, Trump and McGahn have carried out a tortured partnership for more than a year, people familiar with the dynamic say.

According to officials, Trump has at times seemed unclear on McGahn's role -- which is not as his personal lawyer, but as a lawyer for the White House and the presidency.

McGahn enjoys rare status in the West Wing as an official who has openly defied the President— in one case last year, he refused to order the Justice Department to fire Mueller, despite Trump's command.

But it has come at a cost. Trump and McGahn -- once close partners who forged a bond when McGahn joined Trump's campaign in its early stages -- now rarely meet one-on-one, a source familiar with their relationship said. Instead, Trump and McGahn now often only meet as part of a broader meeting, often times one involving White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Inside the West Wing, speculation about McGahn's eventual departure from the staff was boiling for months before being cooled by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, which presented McGahn a second opportunity to help shape the Supreme Court.

It's in that realm that McGahn and the President have found themselves most aligned and successful. Trump has proudly trumpeted the conservative reshaping of the federal judiciary that McGahn has masterminded and executed from his wood-paneled office on the second floor of the West Wing.

Trump often raises the judicial effort during dinners and phone calls with his close advisers and friends, people familiar with the conversations say. At the same time, Trump has openly complained that he does not fully trust McGahn, and has wondered aloud if he was among those leaking damaging information about the White House.

For McGahn, too, the judicial effort has provided a reason to remain in the West Wing, even as his relationship with Trump deteriorated and the Russia probe drew closer to the President. Sources close to the White House said McGahn is likely to leave his White House post after Kavanaugh is confirmed.

What's McGahn's future?

Trump and McGahn went weeks without speaking at the beginning of this year, and months without meeting one-on-one, people familiar with the matter said. During this period, along with telling people McGahn was "a leaker," Trump complained about McGahn's good relationship with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation.

This summer, Trump has stopped raising McGahn's relationship with Rosenstein as frequently, a person familiar with the matter said. The two men resumed one-on-one meetings around the latest Supreme Court nomination efforts, though one person familiar with the dynamic between them compared the duo to "old married couple complaining about each other."

McGahn -- who, as White House counsel, makes a fraction of the money he was making as a lawyer at Jones Day -- has long viewed his role as laying the groundwork for Trump's legacy-making moves. He's also had a hand in the administration's deregulation efforts, which are sweeping.

But, as White House counsel, he has not played a major role in directing the President's legal maneuvering when it comes to the Russia investigation. He was skeptical of the initial strategy, laid out by Trump's ex-lawyers Ty Cobb and John Dowd, of cooperating fully with Mueller's team. McGahn was a main internal advocate of bringing aboard Emmet Flood, who now directs the Russia legal strategy from inside the White House. Flood is viewed as a potential replacement for McGahn should he depart as White House counsel.

With details of McGahn's participation with the special counsel made public, experts say it's only a matter of time before other Trump aides seek out Mueller for interviews.

"Nobody wants to be the last one standing," said Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel under President Bill Clinton and is now a CNN legal analyst. "Nobody wants to watch one's colleagues go in, spill the beans and be the one who is last in line to cooperate. I think there is a good chance you will see a lot of people making phone calls to the special counsel's office asking when their interview can take place."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111322

Reported Deaths: 3202
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7796173
DeSoto670178
Harrison484483
Jackson435081
Rankin383786
Madison373993
Lee344979
Forrest296377
Jones283782
Washington252197
Lafayette242642
Lauderdale2376131
Lamar217138
Bolivar198377
Oktibbeha195854
Neshoba1814111
Lowndes174962
Panola166337
Leflore160787
Sunflower157649
Warren152755
Monroe145972
Pontotoc143819
Pike137256
Lincoln135555
Copiah135036
Marshall134826
Scott123829
Coahoma123436
Grenada120038
Yazoo119333
Simpson118649
Union115225
Holmes113560
Leake113340
Tate113239
Itawamba110424
Pearl River108958
Adams104343
Prentiss102619
Wayne98721
Alcorn96012
George93917
Marion92942
Covington92525
Tippah85921
Newton84427
Chickasaw82625
Winston82221
Tallahatchie81825
Tishomingo79341
Hancock78127
Attala77626
Clarke72349
Clay67621
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61412
Noxubee59617
Smith58316
Claiborne53216
Montgomery52923
Tunica52217
Lawrence49914
Yalobusha49314
Perry48122
Carroll46312
Greene45518
Stone45014
Amite41713
Quitman4146
Humphreys41216
Jefferson Davis39811
Webster36613
Wilkinson33020
Kemper32015
Benton3154
Sharkey27814
Jefferson27010
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22563372
Mobile14335314
Tuscaloosa10023133
Montgomery9759196
Madison904893
Shelby709960
Lee644966
Baldwin640569
Marshall428248
Calhoun412759
Etowah405749
Morgan396833
Houston364632
DeKalb319628
Elmore310752
St. Clair282142
Limestone270828
Walker268892
Talladega258435
Cullman227623
Lauderdale208740
Autauga201029
Jackson200915
Franklin199731
Colbert192228
Russell19053
Dallas185627
Blount184824
Chilton181731
Escambia171328
Coffee16669
Covington166029
Dale163451
Pike130512
Chambers130143
Tallapoosa128686
Clarke127117
Marion104729
Butler99840
Barbour9889
Marengo97221
Winston90413
Geneva8417
Pickens80517
Lawrence80031
Randolph79814
Bibb79114
Hale74529
Cherokee72214
Clay71912
Lowndes70127
Henry6376
Bullock63517
Monroe6319
Washington62212
Crenshaw59330
Perry5806
Wilcox55912
Conecuh55713
Fayette55312
Cleburne5287
Macon52820
Sumter46721
Lamar4565
Choctaw38712
Greene33916
Coosa1973
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