This is how it starts.
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. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to Mr. McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel, one of the people said. Mr. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, 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.
Why did they do this?
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 in the preceding days. Reading the report, the president’s lawyers saw that Mr. Mueller left out that Mr. McGahn had told investigators that he believed the president never obstructed justice. Mr. Burck had told them months earlier about his client’s belief on the matter and that he had shared it with investigators.
Mr. McGahn initially entertained the White House request. “We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister,” Mr. Burck said in a statement. “It was a request, professionally and cordially made.” A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a message seeking comment.
So McGahn tells Mueller’s storm troops that he doesn’t think Trump was guilty of obstruction. This is an opinion that is volunteered. Mueller declines for whatever reason to put that statement in the report…given that Volume 2 is all hearsay or quotes from newspapers, it is hard to see why this one didn’t rate a mention, other than the obvious reason that it interfered with the narrative. What’s the big deal? One would think that a man who had served as the president’s
This goes back to page 4 of Volume 2:
Comey had previously assured the President that the FBI was not investigating him personally, and the President asked Corney to ” lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation by saying that publicly.
The fact that Comey wouldn’t do that…which seems like a damned small favor to ask in the context of what was going on…contributed to Trump’s decision to fire him.
It is hard to understand what McGahn’s game is here.
It makes no difference legally whether Mr. McGahn believes Mr. Trump obstructed justice. That is a determination made by prosecutors, not witnesses. But politically, such a statement could have been a powerful argument for Mr. Trump, who faces scrutiny from House Democrats about whether he obstructed justice and abused his power.
Mr. Mueller declined to make a determination about whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, saying that because a sitting president cannot be indicted, it was unfair to accuse him of committing a crime. Attorney General William P. Barr stepped in and decided with his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, to clear Mr. Trump of wrongdoing.
But because Mr. Mueller made no determination — and wrote a damning report that showed repeated efforts by Mr. Trump to interfere with his inquiry — questions about whether the president obstructed justice have lingered as Democrats have sought to gain momentum in their investigation of Mr. Trump.
What is certain is that McGahn did the White House no favors in his refusal to make the statement and that White House had every legitimate reason to ask him to tell the American people what he’d told Robert Mueller, that is, that as unseemly as a lot of Trump’s actions might appear, none of them were criminal.