McGahn to leave job as White House counsel

President Donald Trump said in a tweet that Don McGahn will leave his job as White House counsel this fall following Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 10:56 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 10:56 PM

The official spin around the news -- confirmed by President Donald Trump -- that White House counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his post this fall goes something like this: We always expected Don to serve through the first two years of the administration. This is a very stressful job, and Don always said he wouldn't and couldn't stay in the role for the entire first term.

Which is, in part, true. Being the lead attorney in any White House is stressful. Being the lead attorney in the Trump White House is roughly equivalent to my stress level when one of my kids is the first performer at a piano recital.

But, but, but. Context matters -- HUGELY -- here.

And the context is this: We learned 11 days ago that McGahn had sat for interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller's team for more than 30 hours in the course of the investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election. We also learned that Trump himself was unaware that McGahn had spent so much time with Mueller's team, and that the White House more broadly was unaware of what exactly McGahn had told Mueller.

That news "unnerved" Trump, according to CNN reporting. This paragraph, from CNN's report on Trump's reaction to the McGahn news, is prescient and telling:

"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."

While trying to downplay the news, Trump made clear that it irked him. "The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type 'RAT,'" Trump tweeted. "But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn't have to. I have nothing to hide."

When asked Wednesday whether he was worried about what McGahn told the special counsel, Trump said, "No."

"We do everything straight, we do everything by the book, and Don is an excellent guy," the President said.

Step back even beyond this month -- and think about the role McGahn has played in this White House. According to The New York Times, Trump tried to force McGahn to fire Mueller as special counsel last summer but ultimately backed down when McGahn refused to carry out the order. Trump also ordered McGahn to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself in the Russia investigation, according to the Times. (Sessions recused himself anyway.) And McGahn was the person that then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates sought out to inform him that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was lying about the nature of his contact with Russian officials -- and likely misled Vice President Mike Pence on that matter. (Trump fired Flynn for lying to Pence.)

So. What we know is that a man intimately involved in several of the most high-profile moments in the first 18 months of the Trump White House (and who was a legal adviser to Trump's campaign) is now leaving -- news that broke less than two weeks after the President was caught by surprise by McGahn's level of cooperation with the special counsel.

Or, let's make it even simpler: The man who single-handedly kept Donald Trump from firing Mueller is now leaving the White House, 11 days after the extent of his cooperation with that same special counsel was made public.

There is no such thing as coincidences that big in American politics. Just doesn't happen. McGahn -- and Trump -- knew exactly the sort of signal the announcement that McGahn was leaving would create. The reaction of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to the news sums up that sentiment nicely: "I hope it's not true McGahn is leaving White House Counsel," Grassley tweeted at Trump. "U can't let that happen."

(It's worth noting that Trump didn't announce the news on Twitter because he wanted to. He did so because Axios reported the news of McGahn's imminent departure early Wednesday morning.)

If McGahn's departure had nothing to do with the ongoing legal and political swirl created by the Mueller probe, he could have easily delayed his departure into the private sector for a few more months -- maybe lasting until after the Mueller report was released. He isn't. That's telling.

Make no mistake: None of this is "going according to plan" for the Trump administration. McGahn's departure takes an already difficult situation for this White House and this President and makes it that much tougher. No spin can change that basic fact.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
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