Former White House counsel Don McGahn told lawmakers that former President Donald Trump had called him “urgently” to tell him to raise conflicts of interest in an effort to get Robert Mueller out of the way over a lawsuit. report that the then special counsel investigated possible obstruction. .
McGahn faced a series of questions in long-sought behind-closed-door testimony about areas the Mueller report identified as potential impediments — including Trump’s demand that he call Rosenstein on an incident he feared would be a repeat of the infamous Saturday Night Massacre.
McGahn, who spent hours as a witness with Mueller’s investigators, repeatedly tried his best to get as close as possible to the written report they produced, without disputing the key details of Mueller’s story — including that Trump called him at home to tell him. directly to ‘call Rod’ – former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Former White House attorney Don McGahn says former President Trump called to tell him, “You have to do this. You have to call Rod.” It was an attempt to get him to call then-Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to get him to raise “conflicts” related to former special counsel Robert Mueller. McGahn refused to carry out what he called a ‘directive’
McGahn got a call on June 14 that came about after the Washington Post reported that Mueller was investigating possible obstruction by the president as part of the Russia investigation.
A lawyer for the Judiciary Committee read from the report: “On the first call, McGahn recalled the president saying something like, ‘You have to do this. You have to call Rod.’
McGahn was more direct in his last testimony. “He urged me, yes, and used those words, yes,” he said.
“I understood I had to call Rod to tell Rod about the conflicts,” McGahn said, referring to Trump’s own claim that Mueller had conflicts that prevented him from serving as special counsel that would force him to resign from office.
‘Call Rod’: McGahn confirmed the language in the Mueller report that Trump told him to call Rod Rosenstein to address ‘conflicts’ regarding Mueller
Robert Mueller has described 11 cases of possible obstruction in his report
But McGahn resisted repeated requests from Trump to raise these issues as the president’s attorney.
“But it wasn’t the job of the president’s counsel to raise those kinds of conflicts,” he said, adding that Trump could do this through his personal attorney if he wanted to.
The “conflicts” Trump alleged related to Mueller’s previous work for a law firm that also represented his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — who would pardon Trump before leaving office after being convicted of corruption charges, and a dispute over golf dues on a golf course in Trump DC area club.
When Committee Democrat lawyers tried to push him further, McGahn resisted.
“Do you agree that it also looks like you’re still trying to get involved in the investigation?” he was asked. “Sure, that’s what it might look like. It didn’t mean the president got involved, but it could be made that easy,” he replied.
The Mueller report cites notes from a top official who said McGahn told Trump that “taking out Mueller” would be another fact used to claim obstruction of justice.
When asked if he can remember, he replied, “I have a vague memory of that, but I have no sharp memory as I sit here today.”
The calls to get McGahn to instruct Rosenstein to oust Mueller were one of 11 cases of possible obstruction that Mueller’s team investigated. Others included the firing of FBI Director James Comey and talks, also detailed by McGahn, and Comey’s statements Trump asked him to see about dropping an investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who later pardoned Trump as well.
According to the report, McGahn decided to quit and clear his desk, fearing a “Saturday Night Massacre” situation.
McGahn says he took Trump’s call as a “direction.”
“Frankly, I took it as a little more direction to push Rod harder on the issue of the conflicts and tell Rod that the president thinks this is a conflict,” he said.
McGahn told the committee it was something ‘I didn’t really feel comfortable’ and that ‘I think my response came from the phone’.
McGahn also feared that “if I conveyed the tone I heard on the phone from the president to Rod, who knows what Rod might do. He could resign himself. Who knows what Rod would do.’
McGahn said: “There are countless reasons Rod could resign, but if he felt he was being forced to do something he didn’t want to do in a way that he thought was inconsistent with what his job was , he could resign.’
McGahn also considered his own exposure. “I don’t want to get caught up in the appearance that I somehow interfered with an investigation or that I was a witness,” he said.
He also confirmed that he told Mueller that he was resisting, fearing a “Saturday Night Massacre” situation.
“This was kind of my Irish Blarney way of explaining what I was trying to explain earlier, that if I, as Counsel for the President, called the Acting Attorney General and conveyed an urgent message about the need for the special counsel to serve because of conflicts, which could lead Rosenstein to believe he was being ordered to do something that he would find contrary to his oath of office.”
“And there’s a historical example of that,” he said, referring to the example from the Watergate era. “And when that happens, you had a succession of layoffs from the Department of Justice. I didn’t want that to happen, so I didn’t call Rod.’