Donald Trump suddenly dismisses White House lawyer Don McGahn.
McGahn’s departure has been expected, especially after the revelation that he spoke for 30 hours — in at least three interviews — with the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Trump-Russia investigation.
But Trump surprised everyone, including McGahn, with the Twitter announcement on Wednesday:
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. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
The dismissal points to an even tougher line with Mueller, pushing back his request for an interview with Trump. A leading candidate to replace McGahn is Emmet Flood, the current White House Counsel, who has advocated resistance rather than co-operation.
The step could also pave the way for Trump’s removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from oversight of the Trump-Russia inquiry because of his contacts in the 2016 campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Trump has publicly insulted Sessions and privately threatened to fire him; however, McGahn has advised that the step would be politically damaging.
Sessions’ dismissal would open the way for a compliant Attorney General to fire Mueller, the ultimate step favored by Trump but one which McGahn and other White House staff have resisted.
Trump insisted on Wednesday that he was not concerned about McGahn’s discussions with the Mueller team: “I don’t have to be aware. We do everything straight. We do everything by the book. And Don is an excellent guy.”
“People familiar with his thinking” put out the line that Trump chose to dismiss McGahn because he had tired of reports that the lawyer might leave. Axios reported on Wednesday morning, before Trump’s tweet, that McGahn planned to go after the confirmation of Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice.
McGahn’s allies said he believed the Axios story was planted by his critics, including Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
They said Ivanka Trump complained bitterly to her father about the revelation of McGahn’s cooperation with Mueller. “One person close” to Ivanka insisted that she had not criticized the White House lawyer and did not play a role in his dismissal.
Donald Trump had long complained about McGahn and asked White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter several times last year to take over as White House lawyer. Porter, who left the White House early this year after accusations of spousal abuse, said he did not believe he was qualified for the role.