White House counsel Don McGahn, one of the top lawyers working in the Trump administration and a pivotal figure in both Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the Mueller probe, is out, donezo, finished with his job, as of Wednesday night, according to the New York Times.
Mr. McGahn’s departure was confirmed by two people close to him. Mr. McGahn and the president sat for a farewell chat on Wednesday, one said. Mr. Trump said this week that he will install as Mr. McGahn’s replacement the longtime Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone, calling him “a very fine man, highly respected by a lot of people.”
We’ve known McGahn was leaving since August, when Trump confirmed that the lawyer would leave his post following Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, so his departure tonight isn’t a surprise. Initial reports then suggested McGahn might stick around for the midterms, but it appears he didn’t make it. His last significant action, however, was fundamentally changing the strategy in the Kavanaugh hearings—letting the nominee go on the offensive and deliver the insane testimony that defined the hearings.
Now, the focus will shift to McGahn’s role in the Mueller investigation, with which he is “fully cooperating,” with Trump’s permission. McGahn’s testimony in that case could be important. Per a Times story in August, McGahn has been pretty thorough with Mueller.
Mr. McGahn and his lawyer, William A. Burck, could not understand why Mr. Trump was so willing to allow Mr. McGahn to speak freely to the special counsel and feared Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction, according to people close to him. So he and Mr. Burck devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate with Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn did nothing wrong.
It’s also notable that McGahn was often working tirelessly to keep Trump from doing anything overtly illegal. Per the Times story today:
Mr. McGahn often tried to stop the president from taking steps that Mr. McGahn viewed as legally or politically problematic, such as firing the special counsel. The president blamed Mr. McGahn for the deputy attorney general’s appointment of Mr. Mueller in May 2017, saying Mr. McGahn had not done enough to control the Justice Department.
We’ll have to see how well his replacement Pat Cipollone does at this.