White House counsel Don McGahn, follows Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh to his meeting with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., onCapitol Hill in...
Jose Luis Magana

Why Trump is so nervous about former White House counsel Don McGahn

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/24/19, 10:33 PM ET

Fmr. Nixon Attorney: Trump's criticism of Don McGahn 'risky'

William Jeffress, Former Nixon Attorney, talks to Rachel Maddow about the “risky” behavior he sees coming from the president and this White House since the Mueller report’s release.
William Jeffress, Former Nixon Attorney, talks to Rachel Maddow about the “risky” behavior he sees coming from the president and this White House since the Mueller report’s release.
Few figures play as an important a role in the Mueller report as former White House Counsel Don McGahn. As we discussed the other day, 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 Donald 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.

It was against this backdrop that the New York Times noted this week, almost in passing, that the president is inclined to attack McGahn as a way “to protect himself from impeachment.” Rachel spoke last night with William Jeffress, a former attorney on Richard Nixon’s team, who explained the risks associated with Trump’s political gambit.

I can’t say with confidence whether the president was watching, but Trump made clear this morning on Twitter that McGahn is very much on his mind.

“As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so. If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself.”

Given the importance of the underlying allegations, it’s worth taking a moment to unpack this one.

Note, for example, that the allegation about Trump directing McGahn to oust Mueller didn’t just come from the press; it came from the Mueller report. In fact, according to the special counsel’s findings, shaped in part by McGahn’s testimony, the president not only pressed the former White House counsel to undermine the investigation while it was ongoing, Trump also urged McGahn to lie about it.

To hear the president tell it, this version of events isn’t true. Why would Don McGahn lie? Trump hasn’t offered a possible explanation.

If the Mueller report and the press accounts are wrong, why prevent McGahn from testifying to Congress about what actually transpired? Trump hasn’t offered an answer to this question, either.

It the president is so confident about the propriety of his actions, why did he refuse to sit down with investigators to answer questions about this and related incidents? Trump hasn’t offered an answer to this question, either.

If the Mueller report exonerated the president, why is he trying to knock down allegations from the report that point to possible criminal wrongdoing? Trump hasn’t offered an answer to this question, either.