Why Trump let Don McGahn talk to Mueller

The decision by President Donald Trump's legal team to allow White House counsel Don McGahn to talk to speci...

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 3:55 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 3:55 PM

The decision by President Donald Trump's legal team to allow White House counsel Don McGahn to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller without restrictions was made in part because the lawyers calculated they did not have a good legal standing to prevent it and because it fit with the strategy to be cooperative with the investigation, according to sources who sought to explain McGahn's extensive interviews.

The sources said that even though McGahn has talked to special counsel investigators -- for some 30 hours -- the Trump administration could still seek to prevent details of the testimony from being released publicly by asserting executive privilege on relevant elements of the report.

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McGahn's lawyers believe his cooperation includes any potential grand jury inquiry, a source familiar with the matter said, but it stops there and blocks Congress or any civil litigators from gaining access to the information. That was the White House posture for former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who spoke with Mueller's team but used executive privilege to shield himself from answering certain questions posed by congressional investigators.

McGahn has not been asked to go to the grand jury, according to the same source, but the Trump legal team thinks there would be a resistance.

"There would be a battle over the use of McGahn's information," one source said, explaining that McGahn was allowed to speak with Mueller with privilege remaining in place over the use of the information.

Some legal experts are critical of the legal strategy arguing that the team could have -- at the very least -- tried to limit the scope of Mueller's questions and that by agreeing to waive privilege, without knowing how McGahn might answer some questions, McGahn's interviews will ultimately be beneficial to Mueller.

Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and law professor at the University of Texas, said that by allowing McGahn to talk, it would be hard to argue that he can't talk to the grand jury to discuss the very same information. In other words, McGahn's privilege was waived by talking, according to Vladeck.

Trump's legal team would try to argue that Mueller is part of the executive branch himself and stopping "intra executive" conversation is difficult. But, according to Vladeck, the fact Mueller has subpoena power means he shouldn't be seen that way.

There is some disagreement over how much the Trump team knows about the cooperation. This was part of the wider strategy to be cooperative at the outset with documents and access, in order to argue there was no need to talk to the President. But another source said the decision to fully cooperate was done without looking at all the documents.

According to sources, McGahn attorney William Burck and Trump attorney John Dowd did debriefings so Dowd knew what McGahn said and there's no worry about McGahn going rogue. Additionally, Burck represents multiple people from the White House counsel's office, so the President's legal team believes they have a good handle on whatever narrative came from those testimonies. But according to another source familiar with the matter, McGahn's attorney did not give the President's lawyers a full accounting of what was said to the special counsel and it was not requested.

The Trump legal team's confidence that McGahn didn't provide incriminating information stems in part from the fact McGahn would have faced an ethical requirement to resign his post if he believed a crime had been committed.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 297321

Reported Deaths: 6805
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19814231
Hinds18949395
Harrison16886282
Rankin12842265
Jackson12750234
Lee9720163
Madison9516204
Jones8035148
Forrest7289138
Lauderdale6872228
Lowndes6061140
Lamar593381
Lafayette5767114
Washington5232130
Bolivar4630124
Oktibbeha443095
Panola433698
Pearl River4212132
Warren4144115
Pontotoc411071
Marshall405995
Monroe3996129
Union397174
Neshoba3848171
Lincoln3624104
Hancock352978
Leflore3400121
Sunflower320986
Tate303974
Pike302697
Scott296171
Alcorn292763
Yazoo292066
Itawamba290675
Coahoma283069
Tippah280065
Copiah279959
Simpson277581
Prentiss271258
Marion258878
Wayne255641
Leake254172
Covington250280
Grenada248878
Adams235778
George232745
Newton232753
Winston222179
Jasper214145
Tishomingo213266
Attala206971
Chickasaw201954
Holmes182870
Clay179452
Stone173429
Tallahatchie171739
Clarke170773
Calhoun158628
Smith153833
Yalobusha145736
Greene128133
Walthall125441
Montgomery123540
Noxubee123431
Perry123235
Lawrence121421
Carroll119425
Amite112435
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102731
Tunica99824
Claiborne99030
Benton94024
Humphreys93128
Kemper91423
Quitman77514
Franklin76420
Choctaw70117
Jefferson62827
Wilkinson62727
Sharkey49217
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499411

Reported Deaths: 10149
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson719951403
Mobile36396741
Madison32674469
Tuscaloosa24391423
Montgomery22789523
Shelby22250219
Baldwin19915289
Lee15070161
Calhoun13961296
Morgan13785255
Etowah13413327
Marshall11458215
Houston10121264
Elmore9509190
Limestone9435139
St. Clair9050228
Cullman8993183
Lauderdale8628214
DeKalb8507175
Talladega7643165
Walker6600260
Jackson6551104
Autauga634492
Blount6252128
Colbert6007121
Coffee5261104
Dale4680107
Russell407534
Franklin400779
Covington3996107
Chilton3911104
Escambia379473
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3432111
Dallas3428142
Pike292973
Marion288796
Lawrence285787
Winston258568
Bibb246058
Marengo244657
Geneva240270
Pickens225757
Barbour213851
Hale212569
Fayette202657
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178140
Monroe166739
Randolph165141
Washington157036
Macon147845
Crenshaw146755
Clay146254
Cleburne140141
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123225
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter100832
Coosa90324
Greene88732
Choctaw55723
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