Trump responds to McGahn White House departure

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

Posted: Aug 30, 2018 11:03 AM
Updated: Aug 30, 2018 11:03 AM

Six months ago, President Donald Trump told a crowd of reporters he was nearing a point "where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want."

Now, with his alienated White House lawyer heading for the exits and amid signals his estranged attorney general will follow, Trump looks to be inching closer to his preferred state.

The upcoming departure of White House counsel Don McGahn, which Trump announced without fanfare on Twitter, will deprive the West Wing of a rare official who has defied a President known to prefer pliant aides. In one instance, McGahn refused Trump's order to instruct the Justice Department to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Instead, McGahn threatened to quit.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has similarly flouted Trump's demands to un-recuse himself from Russia-related matters. In recent days, Trump has dialed up his insults. Lawmakers who used to voice support for their former colleague now say it's likely Sessions is gone by winter.

For a President consumed with loyalty, the departures signal a cull of those with whom he's clashed. But it's not clear whether their replacements will be any more willing to cede to Trump's demands.

The replacement

Emmet Flood, a Russia-focused White House lawyer now considered a likely replacement for McGahn, hasn't indicated in public that he would be any more willing to help Trump short-circuit the Mueller probe than McGahn was. He has acted as an authoritative voice in the West Wing on the investigation, people familiar with the matter say, borne from his experience in President Bill Clinton's White House.

And while Flood would be a valued player in the event Democrats move to impeach Trump, he lacks McGahn's conservative credo and likely would not pursue Trump's conservative deregulatory agenda with the same zeal that has earned McGahn plaudits on the right.

Asked by reporters Wednesday about McGahn's departure, Trump called his lawyer a "good man, very good man."

"A lot of affection for Don," Trump said from the Roosevelt Room, adding that McGahn will "probably" be moving on to the private sector and "he's done an excellent job."

He downplayed the more than 30 hours McGahn spent speaking with investigators in the special counsel's office, stressed the sit-downs only came after his approval.

"I knew he was going," Trump said, despite reports that suggested the President's legal team wasn't fully aware of the contents of McGahn's discussions. "We do everything by the book and Don is an excellent guy."

Departure by tweet?

Trump's tweet announcing McGahn's departure highlighted the highly atypical relationships Trump maintains with several top officials in his administration.

McGahn was quietly planning his White House exit once Kavanaugh's confirmation is secured, but he was caught off guard by Trump's announcement on Twitter of his impending departure. Reading reports of McGahn's plans to exit, it was as if Trump felt a need to spoil his top White House lawyer's own resignation.

Sessions, meanwhile, has repeatedly found himself in the presidential crosshairs, with Trump frequently taking to his favorite social media platform to belittle and chastise one of the most prominent members of his Cabinet.

Before Sessions, it was the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson whom Trump undermined. Like McGahn, Tillerson's exit -- a firing in his case -- was also announced by tweet.

While every one of Trump's predecessors have had disagreements with members of their Cabinet and senior staff, Trump is the first President in modern history to make a habit of publicly undercutting and criticizing those officials.

Trump's tweet on Wednesday was not the first sign of the President's highly unusual relationship with his White House counsel, a position that demands frequent interaction with the President and oversight over the most sensitive matters that hit the President's desk.

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.

While McGahn -- one of the earliest members of Trump's campaign staff -- was once a trusted force in the President's inner circle, their relationship never mended after McGahn failed to convince Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. And it only worsened after McGahn refused Trump's directive to fire the special counsel.

In recent months, one-on-one interactions between the two men have all but evaporated, with the two men almost exclusively meeting during group meetings or when White House chief of staff John Kelly is in the room.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 468498

Reported Deaths: 9100
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison31907468
Hinds30552569
DeSoto29532342
Jackson22868335
Rankin21016355
Lee14393214
Madison13961263
Jones13053215
Forrest12879231
Lauderdale11244292
Lowndes10148171
Lamar9972122
Pearl River8569208
Lafayette8008136
Hancock7110107
Oktibbeha6764117
Washington6756146
Neshoba6350200
Monroe6304156
Warren6267159
Panola6036122
Pontotoc599292
Bolivar5960143
Marshall5917115
Union558885
Pike5424133
Lincoln5192127
Alcorn509388
George454766
Scott447392
Leflore4377138
Tippah431780
Itawamba429192
Prentiss429074
Copiah423883
Simpson4238108
Wayne419663
Tate418999
Adams4174109
Yazoo411486
Sunflower4057104
Covington404891
Marion399699
Leake389784
Coahoma385996
Newton360273
Grenada3489100
Stone342657
Tishomingo320987
Attala318285
Jasper308261
Winston298191
Clay282672
Chickasaw277464
Clarke271784
Holmes257685
Calhoun256939
Smith241546
Yalobusha215447
Tallahatchie213849
Walthall203457
Lawrence202431
Greene202045
Perry195053
Amite191251
Webster191141
Noxubee173437
Montgomery168652
Jefferson Davis164041
Carroll158936
Tunica146533
Benton137531
Kemper136538
Claiborne124134
Choctaw123824
Humphreys122036
Franklin114127
Quitman100925
Wilkinson98335
Jefferson85832
Sharkey61620
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 757893

Reported Deaths: 12784
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1082301712
Mobile694251158
Madison47738562
Baldwin35347420
Shelby34758281
Tuscaloosa32576495
Montgomery32249645
Lee21576200
Calhoun19621363
Morgan19061307
Etowah18363413
Marshall17028252
Houston15881337
St. Clair14724270
Limestone13908178
Elmore13812239
Cullman13756228
Lauderdale12909263
Talladega12124200
DeKalb11705220
Walker10047303
Autauga9371119
Blount9272146
Jackson8970132
Coffee8550150
Colbert8229160
Dale8162142
Escambia632298
Tallapoosa6255165
Covington6214153
Chilton6152128
Russell586753
Franklin558292
Chambers5155127
Dallas4569173
Marion4490114
Clarke447070
Pike439188
Geneva415999
Lawrence4002101
Winston399982
Bibb388975
Barbour334667
Marengo317778
Monroe306844
Butler305878
Pickens296166
Henry288550
Randolph288255
Hale282981
Cherokee275649
Fayette268569
Washington241844
Crenshaw226962
Clay219260
Macon211154
Cleburne205746
Lamar184638
Conecuh173337
Lowndes167856
Coosa160031
Wilcox153033
Bullock145642
Perry132430
Sumter122635
Greene117941
Choctaw71925
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