Former White House lawyer Don McGahn said he felt “trapped” by former President Donald Trump's relentless insistence that he have Special Counsel Robert Mueller ousted, according to newly released transcript of his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.
McGahn appeared before the committee last week, after years of legal sparring over whether his testimony was required. In the hearing, he discussed his role at the White House while Trump tried to stymie Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the 241-page transcript published Wednesday.
In the hearing, McGahn described his feelings about the president’s directive that he order then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. And he said he worried — presciently — the whole situation could result in his being pulled into a congressional hearing.
After Trump pushed him to have Mueller ousted a second time during a phone call, McGahn said he didn’t feel great.
“After I got off the phone with the President, how did I feel? Oof. Frustrated, perturbed, trapped,” he told the panel of congressional investigators. “Many emotions.”
“Felt trapped because the President had the same conversation with me repeatedly, and I thought I conveyed my views and offered my advice, and we were still having the same conversation,” he added. “And I figured, at some point, he'd want to have that conversation again. And, at that point, I wasn't exactly sure how — how to navigate that one, so I felt that I was trapped.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chair of the committee who pushed for the McGahn testimony for years, released a statement describing the testimony as revelatory.
“All told, Mr. McGahn’s testimony gives us a fresh look at how dangerously close President Trump brought us to, in Mr. McGahn’s words, the ‘point of no return,’” the New York Democrat said.
The hearing got occasionally testy as Democrats pressed McGahn on events from four years earlier. McGahn appeared to sidestep certain questions — such as his reaction to actions taken by the former president — or in some instances said he didn’t understand the question. For example, McGahn said he did not have a “crisp recollection” about certain conversations with Trump and others and deferred to his previous testimony.
“I hope you're not suggesting I'm not answering honestly,” McGahn told the committee staff when pressed about his memories of his previous testimony.
Still, the former White House counsel elaborated on several damning accounts of Trump’s actions early in his presidency, including the moment when Trump learned that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia.
Trump’s reaction then, according to McGahn, had been to lean back in his chair and say: “This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked” — an exchange that was also included in Mueller’s initial report.
McGahn also confirmed that Trump later complained to him about potential “conflicts” that Mueller would have as special counsel — potentially involving golf membership dues — and urged McGahn himself to look into the matter.
McGahn affirmed that he told Trump he would not take further steps by calling Rosenstein and that Trump should not do so either to avoid poor optics: “It didn't mean the President was meddling, but certainly it would be easily made to look that way.”
McGahn said he also found it “concerning” that Trump would suggest then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign because he recused himself from overseeing the investigation.
“Because the Attorney General is the Cabinet-level, Senate-confirmed head law enforcement officer of the U.S. It's not an inconsequential moment,” McGahn said when asked about his concern. “It's not the sort of thing that happens every day … They don't teach you this in law school.”
View original post