Former White House lawyer Don McGahn refused to follow pressure from then-President Donald Trump for the impeachment of Special Advocate Robert Mueller for fear the situation would “get out of hand”, he told a House panel.
In a transcript of an interview Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had been seeking for two years, McGahn admitted that Trump wanted him to tell Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Mueller had a conflict of interest and should be withdrawn from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“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 call and take the heat or the fallout that would potentially cause a chain reaction that I think would not be in the best interests of the president, ”McGahn said.
“If I passed the tone I heard on the President’s phone to Rod, Rod could do who knows what?” He could resign himself. Who knows what Rod would do? McGahn added soon after.
McGahn also confirmed other information from Mueller’s report, including how upset Trump was when he found out Mueller had been appointed special adviser.
Mueller’s report quoted Trump as saying, “This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency.”
McGahn said Trump doesn’t sound crazy – then. “I don’t think at this point it would be considered anger. I think he – I think he felt, from my perception, that was bad news,” McGahn said.
He also recalled that Trump told then Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he would have to resign for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia inquiry.
“You know, it’s not the kind of thing that happens every day. It’s not the kind of thing you would expect to happen,” he said, and a ” rather historic potential moment here, where the president has a confrontation with his attorney general. It doesn’t happen every day. We don’t teach you that in law school. “
Mueller had cited McGahn’s testimony to his investigators several times in his report as evidence of a possible obstruction. While Mueller chose not to accuse Trump of obstructing justice, he exposed the president’s efforts to tamper with witnesses and affect the investigation.
House Judicial Democrats have subpoenaed McGahn to testify as part of their impeachment inquiry, but the Trump White House and the Justice Department have fought to block McGahn’s testimony.
The two sides reached a deal last month for McGahn to testify behind closed doors about the incidents mentioned in Mueller’s report.
House Judiciary President Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., said McGahn had provided “first-hand accounts of President Trump’s increasingly uncontrollable behavior and insight into concerns that the conduct of the ‘former president could expose Trump and McGahn to criminal liability.
“All in all, Mr. McGahn’s testimony gives us a new look at how dangerously close President Trump has brought us, in Mr. McGahn’s words, to the ‘point of no return,'” Nadler said.
The committee-ranking Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, noted that McGahn also testified that Trump told him to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators, and that Trump never actually removed Mueller.
“Don McGahn said he observed no collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice and no criminal activity during his tenure as White House attorney,” Jordan said.