Greg Sargent argues that Donald Trump is 100% terrified of former WH lawyer Don McGahn going before the House to testify, because he's got the keys the kingdom...and Trump's jail cell.
Democrats have now subpoenaed former White House counsel Donald McGahn to appear before Congress and testify about his direct involvement in some of the most explosive revelations in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.
Trump’s allies, led by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have ramped up their attacks on McGahn. The New York Times reports that they are escalating for a very specific reason: because they fear that McGahn will help build the case for Trump’s impeachment.
As the Times reports, some White House officials believe the attacks on McGahn are counterproductive. But the most important White House official of all sees things quite differently:
Mr. Giuliani’s attacks on Mr. McGahn have unnerved some senior White House officials, who have argued privately that the president and his legal team should stop drawing attention to damaging episodes in the report, according to two people close to the White House.
But Mr. Trump has privately complained about the accounts, particularly the ones given by Mr. McGahn, and has said the only way to protect himself from impeachment is to attack Mr. Mueller and Mr. McGahn, the people said.
Why would Trump fear such a thing, if the Mueller report totally exonerated Trump? Because Mueller’s recounting of episodes involving McGahn are profoundly damning, and highlight Trump’s corruption, bottomless capacity for official deception and contempt for our democracy and the rule of law with great vividness.
As Mueller documents, McGahn testified that Trump tried to instruct him to carry out one of his most glaring efforts to obstruct justice — and then to lie to cover it up. After the Times reported that Trump had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, and then backed down when McGahn threatened to quit, Trump dismissed the story as “fake news.”
Trump then tried to get McGahn to deny this had happened — and even tried to get McGahn to put that in writing. But McGahn refused, claiming the story was accurate.
As Mueller recounts, Trump then demanded this in a face-to-face meeting with McGahn, claiming: “You need to correct this. You’re the White House counsel.” As always, here Trump seemingly treated McGahn as his personal lawyer, not the White House’s institutional one.
In a particularly revealing passage, Mueller recounts that Trump repeatedly told McGahn that despite any recollections otherwise, he never ordered Mueller’s firing. As the report puts it: “McGahn thought the President was testing his mettle to see how committed McGahn was to what happened." In other words, Trump was probing how much he could get away with in pushing McGahn to lie for him.
And then the Mueller report ties it all up in a neat little bow:
The President then asked, “What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes." McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a “real lawyer” and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The President said, “I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes."
Hopefully, McGahn will soon testify to all this — and much, much more — on live television.
McGahn under oath on national television is going to make for some riveting drama, and Donald Trump will do anything to stop that from happening.
The White House plans to fight a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee for former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify, according to people familiar with the matter, setting up another showdown in the aftermath of the special counsel report.
The Trump administration also plans to oppose other requests from House committees for the testimony of current and former aides about actions in the White House described in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, according to two people familiar with internal thinking who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke of the plans on the condition of anonymity.
White House lawyers plan to tell attorneys for administration witnesses called by the House that they will be asserting executive privilege over their testimony, officials said.
So there's little hope this will happen. Again, the battle will be tied up in the courts, ideally for Trump past November 2020.
On the other hand, Trump may decide he'll stop anyone from testifying by obstructing justice again...