Trump gets defensive about McGahn WH exit

President Donald Trump tweeted that the Russia investigation has nothing to do with the exit of White House counsel Don McGahn. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.

Posted: Sep 6, 2018 1:04 AM
Updated: Sep 6, 2018 1:21 AM

When President Donald Trump confirmed that White House counsel Don McGahn would be leaving his job this fall, he made it seem like it was a mutually agreed-upon decision.

"White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!"

Later Wednesday, Trump voiced a similar sentiment: "Been here now it'll be almost two years and a lot of affection for Don," Trump told reporters, adding of his White House counsel: "He's done an excellent job."

Trump's White House spent much of the last 24 hours selling that very idea, too. This was all part of McGahn's broader plan, he was always going to leave after the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. And on and on it went.

Until Thursday morning, when -- amid a blizzard of tweets -- Trump offered up this one on McGahn's departure: "The Rigged Russia Witch Hunt did not come into play, even a little bit, with respect to my decision on Don McGahn!"

So, um, what?

"My decision on Don McGahn"? That certainly sounds like McGahn was either a) fired or b) told to find a new gig. Both of which are very different than Trump and McGahn agreeing that post-Kavanaugh confirmation was the right time for him to execute his long-planned departure from the White House.

Trump's tweet Thursday morning certainly gives credence to the notion that McGahn's departure wasn't entirely innocent or scheduled. While Trump insisted that his "decision" on McGahn had nothing to do with the "Rigged Russia Witch Hunt," it is a fact that the announced "decision" came just 11 days after it was revealed that McGahn had spent more than 30 hours in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. And that Trump was "unnerved" when he learned that information.

The big question -- for which I don't have an answer -- is what prompted Trump's tweet about McGahn on Thursday.

The less damaging option is that Trump, who always wants to be portrayed as the boss, the decider, the guy who makes call in an authoritative way, was annoyed at how the McGahn departure news was playing over the last 24 hours. Was there too much McGahn-is-jumping-off-a-sinking-ship narrative for Trump's taste? Did he decide to use his 54 million Twitter followers to make sure that the Trump-is-a-tough-and-exacting-boss storyline was the dominant one today?

The far more damaging option, of course, is that Trump got rid of McGahn exactly because he was sick of McGahn not being enough of a team player in relation to the Mueller probe -- and kind of, sort of accidentally revealed that on Twitter Thursday morning.

Remember that most of Trump's tweets are not vetted in any meaningful way -- either by his legal or political teams. So while it might seem somewhat far-fetched that the President of the United States accidentally told a lot more of the truth than he should have when it came to the departure of the White House's top lawyer, it really isn't, given what we know about Trump and his Twitter habits.

How McGahn's departure came about isn't a meaningless question. Not only did McGahn spend more than 30 hours with Mueller's team, but he also was the person who kept Trump from firing Mueller last summer. And the person who acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed about Michael Flynn's lack of candor about his ties to and contacts with the Russians.

In short: McGahn had his hand in a whole lot of pots related to Mueller and the probe the former FBI director is running to look into Russian interference in the 2016 election -- and the possibility of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Given all of that, if Trump fired McGahn it sends a very different signal than if they simply parted ways amicably. I'm on the record as being skeptical about the latter explanation from the minute Trump offered it. And now the President himself has provided even more evidence to suggest that we should all be skeptical about his initial explanation on McGahn's departure.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 296154

Reported Deaths: 6764
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19700230
Hinds18851392
Harrison16736281
Rankin12757265
Jackson12623228
Lee9694161
Madison9480203
Jones7990147
Forrest7234138
Lauderdale6837226
Lowndes6032140
Lamar589680
Lafayette5740113
Washington5220130
Bolivar4616124
Oktibbeha441593
Panola431995
Pearl River4178131
Warren4134115
Pontotoc410571
Marshall403592
Monroe3990127
Union396174
Neshoba3817169
Lincoln3552104
Hancock348975
Leflore3380118
Sunflower318986
Tate303174
Pike301296
Scott294570
Alcorn292263
Yazoo290565
Itawamba290175
Coahoma281169
Tippah279265
Copiah278758
Simpson276280
Prentiss270258
Wayne254341
Leake252871
Marion252778
Covington249580
Grenada247878
Adams234678
George232145
Newton230852
Winston221877
Jasper213645
Tishomingo212665
Attala206669
Chickasaw201453
Holmes182370
Clay179251
Stone172429
Tallahatchie171239
Clarke169371
Calhoun158028
Smith153033
Yalobusha145036
Greene127833
Walthall124340
Noxubee122831
Montgomery122639
Perry122135
Lawrence120321
Carroll118625
Amite111734
Webster110832
Jefferson Davis102231
Tunica99323
Claiborne98829
Benton93824
Humphreys92927
Kemper90323
Quitman77414
Franklin76119
Choctaw69817
Jefferson62727
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey49117
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 497154

Reported Deaths: 10029
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson714001387
Mobile36252736
Madison32573462
Tuscaloosa24289414
Montgomery22708519
Shelby22112215
Baldwin19856285
Lee15021155
Calhoun13755288
Morgan13742252
Etowah13379320
Marshall11439210
Houston10110262
Elmore9451185
Limestone9413136
St. Clair9003225
Cullman8979182
Lauderdale8610212
DeKalb8486175
Talladega7582165
Walker6571259
Jackson6542103
Autauga631391
Blount6229127
Colbert5998120
Coffee5259103
Dale4657107
Russell406433
Franklin399778
Covington3989106
Chilton3891100
Escambia378772
Tallapoosa3613143
Clarke343953
Chambers3423111
Dallas3419142
Pike293372
Marion288895
Lawrence284683
Winston258668
Bibb245960
Geneva240270
Marengo238357
Pickens225055
Barbour212951
Hale211969
Fayette201357
Butler201166
Henry182941
Cherokee177739
Monroe166639
Randolph164640
Washington156635
Macon147243
Crenshaw146254
Clay145554
Cleburne139741
Lamar133733
Lowndes132551
Wilcox122525
Bullock117236
Conecuh107024
Perry105927
Sumter99432
Coosa89624
Greene88532
Choctaw55123
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