Donald Trump told Fox News on Thursday evening that “I don’t think I can let” former White House counsel Don McGahn appear before Congress and testify about Trump’s attempt to obstruct the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats in both the House and the Senate have already called on McGahn to testify.
The report from special counsel Robert Mueller details at least 10 instances in which Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation through stonewalling, encouraging witnesses to lie, telling underlings not to cooperate, lying, or simply trying to end the investigation directly. Incidents involving White House counsel Don McGahn have attracted considerable attention since the redacted report was released, not necessarily because they’re any more blatant than any other incident, but because they were largely unknown before the report was released.
According to McGahn, Trump called him twice to tell him to get rid of Mueller. The report makes it clear that Trump’s interaction with McGahn satisfied all the necessary grounds for a charge of obstruction. During Senate testimony, Attorney General William Barr tried to parse the difference between what Trump claimed and McGahn’s testimony in order to disguise the issue. He did not succeed.
As The Washington Post reports, Trump’s interactions with McGahn are particularly detailed in the report because conservative lawyer and Trump supporter Annie Donaldson, who served as McGahn’s chief of staff, took detailed notes at the times of the discussions. Donaldson’s notes provide a contemporaneous account of Trump’s statements, capturing phrases and orders in a way that makes them more difficult to dispute. Donaldson’s notes cover Trump raging over former FBI Director James Comey, attempts to push then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself, and Trump’s efforts to remove Mueller as special counsel.
Barr has presented the discussion between Trump and McGahn as something where they just “disagreed” on what was said, and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has claimed that McGahn changed his story over time. But the Mueller report shows that McGahn’s account is supported by notes made at the time—which is exactly why Trump was so upset that someone was taking notes.
And the detailed and convincing thoroughness of McGahn’s statements show Trump clearly attempting to obstruct the investigation—exactly why Trump doesn’t want him to testify.
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