STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump responds to McGahn White House departure

President Donald Trump said that Don McGahn will leave his job as White House counsel this fall following Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Posted: Aug 30, 2018 8:52 AM
Updated: Aug 30, 2018 9:03 AM

Six months ago, President Donald Trump told a crowd of reporters he was nearing a point "where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want."

Now, with his alienated White House lawyer heading for the exits and amid signals his estranged attorney general will follow, Trump looks to be inching closer to his preferred state.

The upcoming departure of White House counsel Don McGahn, which Trump announced without fanfare on Twitter, will deprive the West Wing of a rare official who has defied a President known to prefer pliant aides. In one instance, McGahn refused Trump's order to instruct the Justice Department to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Instead, McGahn threatened to quit.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has similarly flouted Trump's demands to un-recuse himself from Russia-related matters. In recent days, Trump has dialed up his insults. Lawmakers who used to voice support for their former colleague now say it's likely Sessions is gone by winter.

For a President consumed with loyalty, the departures signal a cull of those with whom he's clashed. But it's not clear whether their replacements will be any more willing to cede to Trump's demands.

The replacement

Emmet Flood, a Russia-focused White House lawyer now considered a likely replacement for McGahn, hasn't indicated in public that he would be any more willing to help Trump short-circuit the Mueller probe than McGahn was. He has acted as an authoritative voice in the West Wing on the investigation, people familiar with the matter say, borne from his experience in President Bill Clinton's White House.

And while Flood would be a valued player in the event Democrats move to impeach Trump, he lacks McGahn's conservative credo and likely would not pursue Trump's conservative deregulatory agenda with the same zeal that has earned McGahn plaudits on the right.

Asked by reporters Wednesday about McGahn's departure, Trump called his lawyer a "good man, very good man."

"A lot of affection for Don," Trump said from the Roosevelt Room, adding that McGahn will "probably" be moving on to the private sector and "he's done an excellent job."

He downplayed the more than 30 hours McGahn spent speaking with investigators in the special counsel's office, stressed the sit-downs only came after his approval.

"I knew he was going," Trump said, despite reports that suggested the President's legal team wasn't fully aware of the contents of McGahn's discussions. "We do everything by the book and Don is an excellent guy."

Departure by tweet?

Trump's tweet announcing McGahn's departure highlighted the highly atypical relationships Trump maintains with several top officials in his administration.

McGahn was quietly planning his White House exit once Kavanaugh's confirmation is secured, but he was caught off guard by Trump's announcement on Twitter of his impending departure. Reading reports of McGahn's plans to exit, it was as if Trump felt a need to spoil his top White House lawyer's own resignation.

Sessions, meanwhile, has repeatedly found himself in the presidential crosshairs, with Trump frequently taking to his favorite social media platform to belittle and chastise one of the most prominent members of his Cabinet.

Before Sessions, it was the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson whom Trump undermined. Like McGahn, Tillerson's exit -- a firing in his case -- was also announced by tweet.

While every one of Trump's predecessors have had disagreements with members of their Cabinet and senior staff, Trump is the first President in modern history to make a habit of publicly undercutting and criticizing those officials.

Trump's tweet on Wednesday was not the first sign of the President's highly unusual relationship with his White House counsel, a position that demands frequent interaction with the President and oversight over the most sensitive matters that hit the President's desk.

Trump and McGahn have carried out a tortured partnership for more than a year, people familiar with the dynamic say. According to officials, Trump has at times seemed unclear on McGahn's role -- which is not as his personal lawyer, but as a lawyer for the White House and the presidency.

While McGahn -- one of the earliest members of Trump's campaign staff -- was once a trusted force in the President's inner circle, their relationship never mended after McGahn failed to convince Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. And it only worsened after McGahn refused Trump's directive to fire the special counsel.

In recent months, one-on-one interactions between the two men have all but evaporated, with the two men almost exclusively meeting during group meetings or when White House chief of staff John Kelly is in the room.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 133851

Reported Deaths: 1803
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28467459
Washington18734171
Marion16247239
Clackamas11698138
Lane8353109
Jackson693085
Umatilla679368
Deschutes499936
Yamhill319045
Malheur313552
Linn311646
Polk245540
Klamath242838
Josephine174333
Benton170514
Jefferson170525
Douglas168743
Union111416
Wasco108123
Columbia104918
Lincoln99617
Hood River95421
Coos93815
Morrow93810
Clatsop6865
Crook62110
Baker5685
Tillamook3652
Curry3245
Lake2305
Grant2131
Harney1754
Wallowa963
Gilliam511
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00
Eugene
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 42°
Corvallis
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 44°
Roseburg
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 51°
North Bend
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 52°
KEZI Radar
KEZI Temperatures
KEZI Planner

LATEST FORECAST

Community Events