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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: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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