White House Asked McGahn to Declare Trump Never Obstructed Justice
President Trump believed that Donald F. McGahn II, his former White House counsel, showed disloyalty by telling investigators about Mr. Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press
By Michael S. Schmidt
May 10, 2019
WASHINGTON — White House officials asked at least twice in the past month for the key witness against President Trump in the Mueller report, Donald F. McGahn II, to say publicly that he never believed the president obstructed justice, according to two people briefed on the requests.
Mr. McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel, declined, one of the people said. His reluctance angered Mr. Trump, who believed that Mr. McGahn showed disloyalty by telling investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about Mr. Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation.
The White House made one of the requests to Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, before the Mueller report was released publicly but after the Justice Department gave a copy to Mr. Trump’s lawyers to read. Reading the report, the president’s lawyers saw that Mr. Mueller had left out that Mr. McGahn had told investigators that he believed Mr. Trump never obstructed justice. Mr. Burck had told them months earlier that his client had shared that belief with investigators.
Mr. McGahn initially entertained the White House request. But after the report was released, detailing the range of actions Mr. Trump took to try to impede the inquiry, Mr. McGahn declined to put out a statement. The report also included comments Mr. Trump to aides about how he believed Mr. McGahn leaked to the media to make himself look good.
See Which Witnesses the Mueller Report Relied on Most
A partially redacted report of the special counsel’s findings released on April 18 cited interviews with 43 individuals at least 10 times.
The episode shows the lengths the White House has gone to around the release of the Mueller report to push back on the notion that Mr. Trump obstructed justice. House Democrats have used the report to launch investigations into whether Mr. Trump abused his position to insulate himself from the investigations...............................................................