White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether Donald J. Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise.
This excerpt is pulled from Michael S. Schmidt’s and Maggie Haberman’s article, “White House Counsel, Don McGahn, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry,” published by the New York Times on August 18, 2018.
In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours, McGahn described Trump’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged McGahn to respond to it. He gave a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer, including:
- a sense of the president’s mind-set in the days leading to the firing of Mr. Comey,
- how the White House handled the firing of the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn,
- how Mr. Trump repeatedly berated Mr. Sessions, tried to get him to assert control over the investigation and threatened to fire him.
For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual. Lawyers are rarely so open with investigators, not only because they are advocating on behalf of their clients but also because their conversations with clients are potentially shielded by attorney-client privilege, and in the case of presidents, executive privilege.
McGahn’s cooperation began in part as a result of a decision by Trump’s first team of lawyers to collaborate fully with Mueller. Last fall, when Mueller’s office asked to interview McGahn, Trump and his lawyers signaled — to the surprise of the White House Counsel’s Office — that they had no objection.
McGahn was stunned, as was his lawyer, William A. Burck. They could not understand why Trump was so willing to allow McGahn to speak freely to the special counsel and feared Trump was setting up McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction, so he and Burck devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate with Mueller to demonstrate that McGahn did nothing wrong.
Burck has explained to others that he told White House advisers that they did not appreciate the president’s legal exposure and that it was insane that Trump did not fight a McGahn interview in court.
McGahn has overseen Trump’s signature accomplishments during his “presidency,” but Trump has questioned McGahn’s loyalty and, in turn, Trump’s behavior has so exasperated McGahn that he has called the president “King Kong” behind his back.
Editor’s Note: That’s fucking hilarious, and we’re gonna roll with that.
Burck said that McGahn had no choice but to co-operate with the investigation: “President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn’s testimony, so Mr. McGahn answered the special counsel team’s questions fulsomely and honestly, as any person interviewed by federal investigators must.”