White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign from his post in June, but then decided to stay on.
There are conflicting reports on how much President Trump’s plot to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller had to do with McGahn’s decision to possibly leave.
CBS News reported Saturday that McGahn’s motivations for resigning were the ‘accumulation of stress and frustrations with the president,’ not because Trump had threatened to remove the special counsel.
White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit in June, but there are conflicting reports on how much President Trump’s own threat to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller inspired McGahn’s behavior
Don McGahn, seen in the elevator lobby at Trump Tower shortly after the president’s 2016 election win, almost quit his White House job last June, on the heels of the president talking to senior staff about removing Special Counsel Robert Mueller
The New York Times wrote on Thursday that McGahn had received the president’s order to fire Mueller and refused to take it to the Justice Department.
Instead McGahn said he would quit.
CBS’s account suggests that the president never issued Mueller’s firing in writing, but instead talked about it with senior staff, including then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and ex-Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
This was chatter that the top aides viewed ‘skeptically,’ CBS noted, as the president has the propensity to talk about firing people, ‘but often quickly forgets about it.’
In Mueller’s case, aides never took action, hoping that the president would ‘simmer down.’
McGahn, along with other White House lawyers, and with senior aides, eventually talked Trump into keeping Mueller – who had been appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a month before – in place.
CBS said McGahn’s primary issue at the White House was having to tell the president ‘no,’ often having to explain the legal limits of presidential power.
The network said that McGahn never personally threatened Trump with his resignation, and instead communicated his intentions to Priebus and Bannon.
The New York Times characterized what happened more dramatically, calling the episode a ‘West Wing confrontation.’
On Friday, while in Davos, Switzerland, the president denied that he ever pondered firing the special counsel, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign.
‘Fake news, folks,’ the president said. ‘Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story.’
Marc Short, the White House director of Legislative Affairs, sang a similar tune on Face the Nation today.
‘I think that there’s been a lot of sensational reporting on that,’ Short said. ‘Let’s keep in mind a few things: that report dates to some June conversation allegedly. We’re now in January. Mueller’s still special counsel. Don McGahn is still running the White House Counsel’s Office.’
‘Millions of dollars, of taxpayer dollars, have been wasted on an investigation that so far has proven no collusion with the Russians,’ Short said.
On Wednesday, the president had told reporters that he was ‘looking forward’ to speaking with Mueller in the coming weeks.
Because of McGahn’s role in Trump’s firing of both National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey, the lawyer has had to limit his interactions with the president because of the special counsel’s probe, CBS has learned.
Mueller is looking into both of the firings.
A trio of other Trump lawyers – Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow – have persuaded the president to keep Mueller in place and are the ones negotiating the president’s forthcoming interview with Mueller.