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.

Confirmed Cases: 32888

Reported Deaths: 1188
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds264246
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Lauderdale93781
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Attala36523
Simpson3603
Newton35210
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Tate31912
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Marion30812
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Claiborne28910
Winston28210
Noxubee2738
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Marshall2643
Clay25111
Smith23412
Union23311
Coahoma2136
Clarke21125
Walthall2087
Lawrence1892
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Kemper17914
Carroll17111
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1564
Montgomery1432
Calhoun1425
Tippah14211
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Hancock13413
Webster12811
Tunica1153
Jefferson1143
Jefferson Davis1144
Prentiss1113
Greene1089
Amite1043
George943
Wilkinson949
Tishomingo911
Quitman891
Alcorn762
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone722
Franklin472
Benton420
Sharkey400
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 46424

Reported Deaths: 1032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
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Washington1217
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