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In latest White House exit, Trump to lose counsel McGahn

  • Published at 11:18 pm August 29th, 2018
Don McGahn
Don McGahn AFP

Trump made the announcement on Twitter on Wednesday, ending widespread speculation about McGahn, who will be the latest in a long string of high-ranking advisers to leave Trump's side

White House counsel Don McGahn, whose time serving President Donald Trump has been marked by tension related to the investigation of Russian election interference, is set to leave the job in the coming weeks.

Trump made the announcement on Twitter on Wednesday, ending widespread speculation about McGahn, who will be the latest in a long string of high-ranking advisers to leave Trump's side.

"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 said on Twitter.

McGahn did not know the tweet was coming, an administration official said, but had been planning to leave the White House in coming months because he felt he had achieved his goals in getting conservatives named to federal judgeships, rolling back regulations and reeling in the bureaucracy.

McGahn voluntarily cooperated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team in a continuing investigation that already has resulted in guilty pleas, indictments, cooperation deals and one conviction for several Trump insiders.

Trump has not settled on a replacement for McGahn, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. There has been speculation the job would go to Emmett Flood, a veteran Washington lawyer who joined the White House in May to help with the Russia probe, but Sanders said he had not been offered the job.

"People like him," Sanders said of Flood. "He's super well-respected around the building but there's not a plan locked in place at this point."

McGahn could not be reached for comment.

McGahn's departure had been widely expected but was met with dismay by Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley, who wrote in a tweet addressed to Trump: "I hope it’s not true McGahn is leaving WhiteHouse Counsel. U can’t let that happen."

The relationship between Trump and McGahn, a Washington insider who was chief counsel for Trump's presidential run, has become strained by the pressures of Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, sources familiar with the situation have said.

Interviews with Mueller team

The Washington Post said in his interviews with Mueller's team, which also is investigating potential obstruction of justice regarding the Russian meddling, that McGahn was asked about Trump's actions in firing FBI Director James Comey in 2017. Other topics included Trump's comments regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a frequent target of critical tweets from the president, and the possibility of firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the probe, the Post said.

Trump tweeted that he had given McGahn permission to talk with investigators and that he nothing to hide.

In one of the stormiest moments as White House lawyer, McGahn threatened to quit in June 2017 because he was "fed up" after Trump insisted he take steps to remove Mueller, a person familiar with the matter revealed earlier this year.

The source said Trump asked McGahn to raise what he said were Mueller's conflicts with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because the president thought they were serious enough to remove Mueller.

McGahn did not discuss the issue with Rosenstein and threatened to quit when Trump continued to insist that he do so, the person said.

McGahn also was involved in the controversy surrounding Trump’s firing of former national security advisor Michael Flynn. In January 2017, then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed McGahn that Flynn had misled the FBI about his discussions with former Russian ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI.

As White House counsel, McGahn was charged with untangling a thicket of conflicts of interest between Trump's international business interests and his presidency.