White House Counsel Don McGahn Leaving in Fall, Trump Says - NBC4 Washington
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's presidency

White House Counsel Don McGahn Leaving in Fall, Trump Says

The White House counsel advises the president on legal issues

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    White House Counsel Don McGahn Leaving in Fall, Trump Says
    Jose Luis Magana/AP, File
    In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo, White House counsel Don McGahn follows Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh to his meeting with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Capitol Hill in Washington.

    White House Counsel Don McGahn, a consequential insider in President Donald Trump's legal storms and successes and a key figure in the administration's handling of the Russia investigation, will be leaving in the fall, the president announced Wednesday.

    McGahn's exit continues the churn of top officials as the administration sets records for turnover and the White House struggles to fill key vacancies.

    Unlike some less-amiable separations, however, Trump praised McGahn as "a really good guy" who has done "an excellent job."

    Trump said McGahn's departure had nothing to do with his interviews with the special counsel investigating possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.

    Impeachment: Former Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor Testifies

    [NATL] Impeachment: Former Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor Testifies

    Former Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor testifies before Congress Tuesday as the impeachment inquiry continues. Taylor texted "I Think It's Crazy To Withhold Security Assistance For Help With A Political Campaign" to a colleague as President Trump was threatening to withhold Ukraine military aid. NBC's Tracie Potts reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019)

    Pressed by reporters, Trump said he had approved the attorney's interviews and was unconcerned about anything McGahn might tell prosecutors.

    "We do everything straight," he said. "We do everything by the book."

    The departure of Trump's top lawyer, which has been expected, will create a vacancy in one of the most critical — and yet least visible — positions within the West Wing. Besides dealing with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, McGahn has had important input on a range of issues from policy to personnel to national security.

    He will remain at the White House until after the expected Senate confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Trump said in a tweet.

    Additionally, White House ethics lawyer Stefan Passantino is leaving, a senior White House official told NBC News. His last day is Friday.

    McGahn, a top election lawyer who served as general counsel on Trump's campaign, has played a pivotal role in the president's remaking of the federal judiciary with young, conservative judges.

    Syrian Kurds Pelt Withdrawing US Troops With Potatoes

    [NATL] Syrian Kurds Pelt Withdrawing US Troops With Potatoes

    Residents of a Kurdish-dominated Syrian city have pelted U.S. troops with potatoes as they drove through, apparently on their way out from Syria. Angry Qamishli residents hurled potatoes, shouting "No America" and "America liar," in English.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019)

    He also helped guide Trump's selection of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and the president's nomination of Kavanaugh and helped oversee a dramatic rollback of Obama era regulations.

    But McGahn's time has also been marked by tumult as he has been the main point of contact inside the White House for Mueller's investigation. He has met with investigators on at least three occasions for many hours at a time and threatened to resign last year if Trump continued to press for Mueller's removal.

    Trump's announcement came more than a week after a New York Times report that McGahn had been cooperating extensively with Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with Trump's Republican campaign.

    Trump insisted at the time that his general counsel wasn't a "RAT" and contrasted him with John Dean, the White House counsel for President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Dean ultimately cooperated with prosecutors and helped bring down the Nixon presidency in 1974, though he served a prison term for obstruction of justice.

    McGahn has been telling associates for months that he was looking to leave the White House and had discussed the timing. But Trump's tweet came as a surprise to some White House officials and lawmakers.

    In fact, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted after the president's announcement: "I hope it's not true McGahn is leaving White House Counsel. U can't let that happen."

    Mattis Responds to Trump With Bones Spurs Burn

    [NATL] Mattis Responds to Trump With Bones Spurs Burn

    Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis took the stage at the annual Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York City to crack-wise after President Donald Trump called him an "overrated general".

    (Published Friday, Oct. 18, 2019)

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hailed McGahn as the "most impressive White House Counsel during my time in Washington." He called the departure "sad news for our country."

    Emmet Flood, who joined Trump's White House in May as in-house counsel for the Mueller probe, has been considered a leading candidate to replace McGahn and has the departing attorney's support, two administration officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

    Asked about Flood, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "People like him. He's super well-respected around the building. But there's not a plan locked in place at this point."

    McGahn, 50, has navigated many of the storms of the first 19 months of the Trump White House, figuring in the drama surrounding the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn and also Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.

    When Trump announced McGahn's appointment in November 2016, he cited the attorney's "brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law."

    But McGahn quickly clashed with the president over the Russia investigation.

    Pence Announces Cease-Fire in Syria

    [NATL] Pence Announces Cease-Fire in Syria

    Vice President Mike Pence announced a negotiated temporary cease-fire in Syria. The agreement comes after a weeklong invasion by Turkey into the region against Kurdish allies of the U.S. military. 

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019)

    McGahn, an avowed defender of executive powers, broke with some members of Trump's legal team as he encouraged a less-cooperative stance toward Mueller's investigation, believing it could constrain future presidents.

    As members of Trump's legal team looked into potential conflicts of interest involving Mueller, Trump directed McGahn to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to raise the perceived conflicts and push for Mueller's ouster, a person familiar with the matter said at the time.

    McGahn put off making the call because he disagreed with the strategy, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

    When the president persisted in pressing the issue, McGahn told other senior White House officials that he would resign if Trump didn't back off. Trump let the matter drop, the person said.

    The president later denounced the reports as "fake news."

    McGahn was the White House official approached in January 2017 by Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, over concerns that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail because of conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

    Rep. Elijah Cummings, House Oversight Chairman, Dies at 68

    [NATL] Rep. Elijah Cummings, House Oversight Chairman, Dies at 68

    Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, has died at 68, according to his office. A Maryland congressman since 1996, Cummings  was the first black House speaker pro tem and a frequent, outspoken critic of President Donald Trump during his tenure as a lawmaker.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019)

    Flynn was forced to resign after White House officials concluded he had misled them about the nature of his contacts with Kislyak during the White House transition.

    McGahn was also among the White House officials who sounded an alarm when Sessions contemplated resigning as attorney general early in the administration. White House officials persuaded Sessions not to resign even after the president berated him for recusing himself from the Russia probe, which led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel.

    Since then, Trump has applied public pressure on his attorney general to leave.

    Before working at the White House, McGahn was a campaign finance attorney at Jones Day, a Washington law firm that has filled several top legal roles within the administration.

    McGahn also served as chairman of the Federal Election Commission and as a counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee before joining Trump's orbit as general counsel to the president's 2016 campaign.