Former White House counsel Don McGahn twice declined to publicly state that he believed President Trump did not obstruct justice, it has been reported.
White House officials were hoping that McGahn, who gave statements to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, would comment publicly in support of the president’s assertion that he is innocent of obstruction of justice, according to The New York Times.
McGahn’s refusal to publicly back Trump reportedly angered the president, who has long considered the former White House counsel’s cooperation with Mueller as an act of disloyalty, according to the Times.
Trump reportedly asked his aides to reach out to McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, before the Mueller report was released publicly on April 18.
Former White House Counsel Don McGahn (above) declined to publicly issue a statement supporting President Trump’s assertion that he did not obstruct justice
The White House obtained a copy before the Justice Department released it to the public.
White House lawyers noticed that the report did not mention the fact that McGahn told investigators that he did not believe the president obstructed justice.
McGahn’s lawyer, Burck, told White House lawyers earlier this year that his client told Mueller’s investigators that he didn’t think Trump ever obstructed justice.
‘We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister,’ Burck told the Times.
‘It was a request, professionally and cordially made.’
But after the report was released, the public learned of steps that Trump took to impede the Mueller investigation.
That was when McGahn decided not to release a statement backing the president.
The Mueller report revealed that Trump ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel.
But rather than follow through on the order, McGahn threatened to resign, which forced Trump to back down.
After the Times reported on Trump’s attempts to fire Mueller in January 2018, the president asked McGahn to release a statement denying the story, but he refused.
Trump also pressured McGahn to talk to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in hopes that he would un-recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe.
The president has long been angered by McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators looking into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia
But McGahn refused.
McGahn’s actions in standing up to the president led Trump to believe that the then-White House counsel was leaking to the press in order to make himself look good.
The White House believes that a statement from McGahn in support of the president’s contention that he did not obstruct justice would help Trump politically as he is coming under increasing pressure from Democrats on the Hill.
Congressional Democrats, faced with blanket opposition to their oversight probes by Trump, are considering more contempt citations against administration officials who defy their subpoenas, a leading Democrat said on Friday.
U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said lawmakers may bundle numerous contempt citations from different committees into a single resolution that the full House of Representatives could then vote on.
‘There obviously are going to have to be, perhaps from our committee and certainly from other committees, other contempt citations to enforce subpoenas,’ Nadler told reporters.
Asked about bundling citations together, the New York Democrat replied: ‘It’s a great idea. In fact, I suggested it … It just makes sense, to spend as little floor time as possible, to group them together.’
McGahn testified before Mueller’s (above) investigators for some 30 hours and provided key bits of information about Trump’s alleged attempts to impede the investigation
A consolidated contempt vote is among options Democrats are considering in response to Trump’s stonewalling of congressional investigations into his presidency and business investments.
Another option is reviving Congress’s ‘inherent’ contempt authority.
Some Democrats say that would allow lawmakers to fine uncooperative officials up to $25,000 per day.
Some Democrats are also calling for impeachment proceedings against recalcitrant Trump Cabinet members.
Nadler said Congress faces ‘the unprecedented situation in which the administration is essentially stonewalling all subpoenas – we’ve never had this before in American history, so far as I know.’
His committee on Wednesday voted to recommend that the full House bring a contempt of Congress citation against Attorney General William Barr for defying a committee subpoena that seeks the unredacted Mueller report and underlying material.
The vote came just hours after the White House blocked the report’s disclosure by invoking the legal principle of executive privilege.
But the judiciary committee chairman also sent a letter to Barr on Friday, offering to resume negotiations for the Mueller material while the contempt citation awaits a vote by the full House.
‘My staff is ready, willing and able to meet with your staff in an effort to achieve a suitable compromise,’ the letter said.
Nadler told reporters that the House Intelligence Committee would soon hold a contempt vote.
Other Democratic lawmakers have suggested action against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for refusing to turn over Trump’s tax returns.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat, plans to hold McGahn in contempt if he does not appear before the panel under subpoena on May 21
He also reiterated plans to hold McGahn in contempt if he does not show up to testify before the panel under subpoena on May 21.
‘He knows that if he doesn’t testify on the 21st without a court order, which he won’t get, he’ll be subject to a contempt citation,’ the chairman said.
Nadler’s committee is continuing to negotiate for Mueller, author of the report on Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, to testify before he leaves the Justice Department in coming weeks.
‘Hopefully he will come in. It won’t be next week,’ Nadler said.
‘If necessary, we will subpoena him and he will come.’
The House Judiciary panel has not set a date for Mueller to testify, but lawmakers had spoken tentatively about May 15.
The panel is still negotiating with Mueller and the Justice Department. It was unclear where negotiations stood on Friday.
Barr has said he has no objection to Mueller testifying. But Trump has tweeted that Mueller should not testify.
The Justice Department told the House committee that Mueller is expected to leave his post in ‘a matter of weeks’, according to Nadler, who rejected the idea that there might a benefit to the special counsel testifying as a private citizen.
‘Is there a benefit? No! He may prefer to do that because he’s then more free from the instructions of the Department of Justice,’ the chairman said.