White House counsel McGahn to leave this fall

President Trump announced Wednesday that White House counsel Don McGahn would be leaving his position in the fall.

Trump made the abrupt announcement on Twitter, writing that McGahn would leave after Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s expected confirmation.

“I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!” Trump wrote.

McGahn has played a central role in the administration’s efforts to appoint conservative judges to federal courts. Those who worked closely with McGahn also describe him as a steady force in a White House increasingly embroiled in chaos.

“The White House Counsel’s office is an island of competence and professionalism in an otherwise chaotic and amateurish West Wing,” said a former White House official who worked with the counsel’s office regularly. “It will be a tremendous loss and you have to wonder if this well-oiled machine starts to sputter a bit after he leaves.”

Still, the source acknowledged that McGahn and Trump often left one another “frustrated.”

 

The Washington Post reported that even McGahn was surprised by Trump’s announcement Wednesday morning. According to the Post, while it was known in the West Wing that McGahn planned to leave after Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, he had not yet discussed it personally with Trump.

Trump has not chosen someone to fill McGahn’s role when he leaves, according to an Axios report earlier Wednesday.

McGahn is poised to leave his position just weeks after The New York Times reported that the White House counsel had cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the election, including on the line of inquiry as to whether Trump obstructed justice.

Among other topics, McGahn reportedly discussed the president’s dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take oversight of the special counsel, despite Sessions’s recusal from the Russia probe.

Trump later claimed to have allowed McGahn and other members of the White House staff to “fully cooperate” with Mueller, whose investigation the president has regularly derided as a political “witch hunt.”

“I allowed White House Counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House Staff, to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history. No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!”

There have been signs of tumult between McGahn and Trump for several months. The Times also reported in January that McGahn had threatened to resign at one point when Trump broached firing Mueller.

Trump later on Wednesday described McGahn as an “excellent guy” for whom he has “a lot of affection.”

“Don McGahn is a really good guy, been with me a long time,” Trump told reporters at an event rolling out a drug-free communities support program at the White House.

When asked whether he was concerned about what the White House counsel said to Mueller, Trump replied, “No, not at all.”

The president’s public attacks on Mueller have only escalated in recent weeks, as the special counsel’s team litigated its first case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Last week, a jury in Alexandria, Va., convicted Manafort on eight counts of tax and bank fraud.

McGahn worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign before joining to the White House. As the White House counsel, he is tasked with advising Trump and other members of the White House staff on legal issues that involve the administration.

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