In a startling disclosure Saturday, the New York Times reported a top White House lawyer has engaged in a series of conversations with the special counsel investigating allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Specifically, White House Counsel Don McGahn has met with lawyers with Robert Mueller’s office on separate occasions in the last nine months. The meetings have reportedly amounted to 30 hours of conversations.
A voluntary act on his part, Mr. McGahn’s exchanges with Mueller lawyers were not compelled by subpoena power.
In its account, the Times cites 12 current and former White House officials acknowledging McGahn submitting to three voluntary interviews with Mueller lawyers since late December 2017.
During interviews in which he allegedly gave lengthy statements, McGahn discussed President Trump’s attitudes toward the Russia probe, events surrounding the dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and the president’s desire to see Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire Mr. Mueller.
“(McGahn) provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer,” the New York Times reported.
Denouncing the story as written to suggest Mr. McGahn has turned against the president, President Trump unleashed on Twitter, saying he had authorized the conversations with the Mueller team.
I allowed White House Counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House Staff, to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel. In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history. No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018
One day later, on Sunday, the Times printed a follow-up story, suggesting White House attorneys were not aware of how broadly McGahn spoke in discussions with Mueller’s team.
According to both McGahn and Trump’s personal lawyers, the president did not seek privileges afforded by executive power in regard to the White House counsel’s testimony. However, Politico reported Sunday Trump has had personal run-ins with McGahn, including an incident in which the president wanted the White House attorney to refute a media report he had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller under the threat of termination.
Pushing back, Trump again unloaded on social media, upbraiding what he characterized a “fake” piece of news aiming to mislead readers.
The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018
President Trump has repeatedly asserted there was no collusion with either the Kremlin or Russian nationals, and has declared the Mueller probe a partisan “witch hunt.”
[New York Times] [AP] [Photo courtesy Reuters via BBC]