Former White House counsel Don McGahn has said in his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee that Donald Trump wanted him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller who was probing Russian interference into the 2016 election result.
According to Mr McGahn, the former president was so clear in his demand that in 2017 he nearly threatened to resign. He reportedly told former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus that Mr Trump was asking him to do “crazy s**t”.
In his testimony, he says he does not “remember saying that to the chief of staff”, but Mr McGahn confesses “that it does sound like something” he may have said. He, however, characterised the use of those specific words as “fair”.
Describing several instances of potential obstruction by Mr Trump, McGahn said it had reached an “inflection point” and “it was time to hit the brakes” when Mr Trump allegedly pressurised him to direct deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to fire Mr Mueller.
“If the acting attorney general received what he thought was a direction from the counsel to the president to remove a special counsel, he would either have to remove the special counsel or resign,” said Mr McGahn during his testimony.
“We are still talking about the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ decades and decades later,” he said as he compared Mr Trump’s alleged interference with the probe with that of President Richard Nixon firing several top officials in an attempt to block an investigation into the Watergate scandal.
Mr Nixon’s decision led to a huge outrage and highly damaged his reputation. His impeachment process began ten days after his decision to oust the special prosecutor.
The 2019 Mueller report on the other hand concluded that though the Trump campaign welcomed and expected to benefit from the Russian interference, there was insufficient evidence to bring any conspiracy charges against the then-president and his associates.
Defending his decision to not call Mr Rosenstein, Mr McGahn said, “this seemed to be an inflection point.”
“It was time to hit the brakes and not make a phone call to Rod to raise this issue that the president had continued to raise with me,” he said. “It seemed to me that it'd be easier for me to not make the call and take whatever heat or fallout there would be than to cause, potentially, a chain reaction that I think would not be in the best interest of the president.”
Mr McGahn said he also didn’t call Mr Rosenstein because “he [Rosensteing] could potentially react in a way that would cause him to potentially resign, and that would cause a chain reaction that would be not in anyone’s interest.”
The House Judiciary Committee has been trying for a couple of years to question Mr McGahn, in its probe into whether Mr Trump obstructed justice in his attempts to thwart the investigation into the possible collusion with the Russians.
While earlier subpoenas to Mr McGahn were blocked by the White House, the committee made a breakthrough last week, following a two-year court battle to secure his testimony.
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