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Sessions and McGahn each stood up to Trump. Now, McGahn heads for the exits

Six months ago, President Donald Trump told a crowd of reporters he was nearing a point "where we're getting...

Posted: Aug 30, 2018 11:12 AM
Updated: Aug 30, 2018 11:12 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.

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Don McGahn

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Jeff Sessions

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White House

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: 294091

Reported Deaths: 6669
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19626230
Hinds18745386
Harrison16618278
Rankin12662264
Jackson12509224
Lee9679160
Madison9432199
Jones7928146
Forrest7184136
Lauderdale6813226
Lowndes6017137
Lamar586880
Lafayette5721113
Washington5205130
Bolivar4604122
Oktibbeha440693
Panola428893
Pearl River4144129
Warren4124113
Pontotoc408469
Marshall401892
Monroe3982126
Union394974
Neshoba3782168
Lincoln3508100
Hancock343874
Leflore3367118
Sunflower317686
Tate301774
Pike299795
Scott293170
Alcorn291261
Itawamba289374
Yazoo287962
Coahoma277367
Tippah276765
Copiah276357
Simpson273878
Prentiss269558
Leake252271
Wayne252241
Marion251978
Covington248478
Grenada246677
Adams233877
George231245
Newton227552
Winston221475
Jasper212945
Tishomingo211965
Attala206269
Chickasaw200951
Holmes181770
Clay178550
Stone171929
Tallahatchie170439
Clarke169171
Calhoun157528
Smith152531
Yalobusha143737
Greene127433
Walthall123640
Noxubee122829
Montgomery121838
Perry121534
Lawrence119621
Carroll118124
Amite111232
Webster110230
Jefferson Davis101531
Tunica98923
Claiborne98129
Benton93324
Humphreys92527
Kemper89723
Quitman77114
Franklin75919
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62326
Jefferson62027
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 492683

Reported Deaths: 9930
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson709061374
Mobile36044725
Madison32355455
Tuscaloosa24093410
Montgomery22536501
Shelby21892215
Baldwin19714283
Lee14950153
Morgan13641251
Calhoun13232286
Etowah13163319
Marshall11250209
Houston10073261
Elmore9371185
Limestone9353134
Cullman8891181
St. Clair8813223
Lauderdale8594211
DeKalb8441175
Talladega7511163
Walker6514255
Jackson6487102
Autauga624891
Blount6095127
Colbert6000118
Coffee5238102
Dale4637107
Russell403930
Franklin398977
Covington3953106
Chilton3868100
Escambia377272
Tallapoosa3581142
Clarke343650
Chambers3406110
Dallas3401141
Pike293272
Lawrence282684
Marion281695
Winston246567
Bibb244960
Geneva239070
Marengo235355
Pickens224454
Barbour211351
Hale209468
Fayette200256
Butler195666
Henry182241
Cherokee176838
Monroe166139
Randolph163640
Washington156435
Crenshaw144354
Clay143854
Macon141743
Cleburne137339
Lamar132533
Lowndes130851
Wilcox121625
Bullock116736
Conecuh106724
Perry105527
Sumter98331
Coosa88823
Greene87532
Choctaw55023
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