- President Donald Trump soured on the former White House counsel Don McGahn for his role in revealing how Trump sought to impede the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to a Washington Post report published on Friday.
- People familiar with Trump’s thought process said he was particularly incensed about McGahn’s contemporaneous notes, The Post reported.
- McGahn disclosed to the special counsel that Trump ordered him to call then-acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire the special counsel in 2017.
- McGahn reasoned that firing the special counsel in the middle of its investigation "would be terrible" for optics. McGahn considered resigning instead of carrying out Trump’s order, investigators said in their report.
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President Donald Trump soured on former White House counsel Don McGahn for his role in revealing how Trump tried to impede the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to a Washington Post report published Friday.
According to a redacted report on Mueller’s findings, McGahn disclosed that Trump ordered the attorney to call then-acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire the special counsel.
"Mueller has to go," McGahn recalled Trump as saying during a phone call in June 2017.
At the time, Trump claimed Mueller had numerous conflicts of interest as a lead investigator. Justice Department ethics officials previously determined that Mueller was cleared to serve in May 2017, which McGahn relayed to Trump. McGahn sided with the Justice Department’s assessment and described Trump’s beliefs that Mueller had conflicts of interest as "silly" and "not real," according to the special counsel’s report.
In late January 2018, news outlets began reporting that Trump had previously considered jettisoning the special counsel. The president and White House aides directed McGahn to dispute the account, which the attorney "shrugged off" because he believed the news reports "were accurate," the special counsel’s report said.
McGahn reasoned that firing the special counsel in the middle of its investigation "would be terrible" for optics and considered resigning instead of carrying out Trump’s order, investigators said in their report.
"I never said to fire Mueller. I never said ‘fire,’" Trump said during a meeting, according to McGahn’s recollection. "This story doesn’t look good. You need to correct this. You’re the White House counsel."
Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin
But McGahn was intent on letting the record stand and "thought the President was testing his mettle to see how committed" he was.
Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter claimed that during an internal discussion, Trump referred to McGahn as a "lying bastard" and threatened something to the effect of: "If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him."
McGahn also took contemporaneous notes about his interactions with Trump, which drew the president’s ire.
During an Oval Office meeting between with Trump, the president asked questions about McGahn’s voluntary interviews with the special counsel. The attorney explained that their conversations were not exempt by attorney-client privilege, to which Trump responded by asking about his notes.
"What about these notes? Why do you take notes," Trump asked, according to McGahn. "Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes."
McGahn explained that his notes were not necessarily negative in nature and that he took them because he was a "real lawyer."
"I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn," Trump replied. "He did not take notes."
McGahn left the Trump administration in October 2018.
Trump sounded off on the note-taking issue Friday, a day after the redacted Mueller report was released.
"Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed," Trump said in a tweet.
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