When it comes to obstruction allegations surrounding Donald Trump, former White House Counsel Don McGahn is a witness of particular significance: few figures play as an important a role in the Mueller report as the former White House counsel. As we’ve discussed, the Republican lawyer spoke with investigators for dozens of hours, and in the redacted version of Mueller’s report, the former White House counsel is cited more than 150 times.
In some of the episodes in which Trump allegedly obstructed justice, the claims of suspected criminal misconduct are based heavily on what McGahn told investigators.
Indeed, as the special counsel’s findings made clear, the former White House counsel very nearly resigned because the president directed him to “do crazy s**t,” including an incident in which, according to McGahn, Trump pressed the lawyer to push the Justice department to derail the investigation by getting rid of Mueller and creating a false document to cover that up.
In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that aired this morning, the president pushed back against the allegations raised by the former White House counsel.
“I don’t care what [McGahn] says, it doesn’t matter,” Trump said.
“Why would [McGahn] lie under oath?” Stephanopoulos later asked.
“Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer,” Trump said. “Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen – including you, including the media – that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”
“And has to go?” Stephanopoulos followed up.
“I didn’t say that,” Trump insisted.
The implication isn’t subtle: the president seemed to suggest the former White House counsel made false claims, under oath, when speaking to federal investigators.
Naturally, congressional Democrats have some questions about all of this and have subpoenaed McGahn to testify on Capitol Hill. The White House, true to form, has ordered McGahn to ignore that subpoena.
The result is an extraordinary dynamic in which Trump can speak publicly about McGahn’s testimony to Team Mueller, but McGahn cannot. Trump can also accuse the former White House counsel of making false claims under oath, but McGahn is not in a position to defend himself.