On Friday evening, the New York Times dropped a report claiming that on at least two occasions, the White House asked former chief counsel Donald McGahn to publicly state that Donald Trump never obstructed justice, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary laid out in Robert Mueller’s report. McGahn refused.
The revelation is hardly a surprise given what the public learned about McGahn last month. The former White House counsel made several appearances throughout Mueller’s exhaustive report, but none were more impactful than in the section outlining 10 incidents of obstruction of justice committed by Donald Trump. In one case, McGahn was reportedly instructed to fire Robert Mueller in the middle of his investigation, an order that was ignored.
In another, after the White House’s directive to McGahn was leaked to the media, Donald Trump demanded McGahn publicly deny it ever occurred. Again, McGahn refused.
According to the Times report, the White House first approached McGahn in the days between their first look at the complete Mueller report and its public disclosure, on the orders of Trump himself. Alarmed at the charges of obstruction clearly outlined in the Mueller report, lawyers for the White House approached William Burck, McGahn’s personal lawyer, and asked if McGahn would issue a statement declaring Trump never obstructed justice.
The request was reportedly taken into consideration, but ultimately ignored once the Mueller report was made public. As Trump fumed in the days following its release, lawyers made a second, equally futile request of McGahn to deny the obstruction allegations.
As with every current and former appointee, official, or employee within Donald Trump’s orbit, disobedience was met with retribution. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, attacked McGahn on cable news, calling into question his mental fortitude. And the White House is exerting what little control it still has over its former chief counsel, who is currently the subject of multiple subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives. Democrats have asked McGahn to turn over documents related to the Mueller investigation, and are trying to compel him to testify in person before the House Judiciary Committee. McGahn has thus far refused to cooperate on the instruction of the White House, adding him to the long and growing list of Trump officials who are facing possible contempt charges and the jail time that comes with it.