Former White House attorney Don McGahn said telling the Justice Department to fire Special Advocate Robert Mueller at the behest of former President Trump would have been a “point of no return” for him. would leave him feeling “trapped” in his position.
But in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee following a two-year court battle, McGahn said he had not witnessed any offense or obstruction of justice and agreed with the other decisions of the President, including the sacking of former FBI Director James Comey.
McGahn’s testimony came nearly four years after the episodes documented in Mueller’s report into Russian interference and obstruction of justice. Although he offered context to some of his decision-making and testimony to the special council, he offered little new revelation about what happened at the time.
McGahn said the former president repeatedly asked him to tell former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Mueller had conflicts of interest that should prevent him from serving as special advocate. The talks have taken place so many times that McGahn said he felt “trapped” by the request and was ready to step down if asked to do so again.
His concern with calling Rosenstein, McGahn said, was that the former Deputy Attorney General “could potentially react in a way that would potentially cause him to resign, and that would set off a chain reaction that would not be in anyone’s best interests. “, did he declare.
He described this moment in special counsel as an “inflection point” in Mueller’s report and expanded on this in his interview with House Judiciary, saying it would have been “a point of no return”.
“If the acting attorney general received what he believed to be an instruction from counsel to the president to remove a special advocate, he would either have to remove the special advocate or resign,” McGahn said.
McGahn referred to the infamous Saturday night massacre, when President Richard Nixon’s two top Justice Department officials resigned rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.
“We’re still talking about the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ decades and decades later. And, looking back, as a history student, you still wonder if things could have turned out any differently if different people had. made different decisions? ”said McGahn. “It seemed like an inflection point. It was time to put the brakes on and not call Rod to bring up this issue that the President had continued to raise with me. It seemed to me that it would be easier for me not to make the roll call and take the heat or the fallout that would potentially cause a chain reaction that I don’t think would be in the best interests of the president. ”
Moments later, however, McGahn cautioned not to read the analogy too much, as Mr. Trump “never, for example, came close to ordering Mueller’s office shut down. It was Mueller. and conflicts “.
McGahn said Mr. Trump never asked him to call Mueller directly and fire him. He also said he supported the former president on another controversial issue, his decision to fire Comey.
“The narrative at the time, if I recall correctly, was that the impeachment of the FBI director was his own problem. In my opinion, it was not. It was within the power of the president,” McGahn said. .
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement that McGahn “has provided the committee with substantial new information, including first-hand accounts of President Trump’s increasingly uncontrollable behavior and insight into the concerns that the conduct of the former president could expose Trump and McGahn to liability. “
“All in all, Mr. McGahn’s testimony gives us a new look at how dangerous President Trump has brought us, in Mr. McGahn’s words, to the ‘point of no return’,” he said. he adds.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed McGahn’s testimony as “a victory for democracy.”
But the committee’s top Republican, Jim Jordan, released a memo saying the interview revealed no evidence of misconduct, wrongdoing or criminality on the part of the former president, nor any effort to stifle other administration inquiries.
McGahn’s testimony to the panel marks the culmination of a multi-year dispute over a subpoena issued by the Judicial Committee in April 2019 after Mueller released his long-awaited report. McGahn voluntarily met with Mueller investigators and was cited extensively in the Special Advice on Obstruction of Justice volume, which did not conclude whether Mr. Trump was guilty or innocent of the charges.
Under the court’s agreement for his testimony, McGahn could only answer questions about what he had said to the special advocate and any episode where he was referenced in the publicly available version of the report.
Zak Hudak, Nikole Killion, Paulina Smolinski and Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.