Former White House counsel Don McGahn is one of many senior officials inside the Trump administration to have left their positions as the Trump train rumbled on, and this past Thursday, he shared some of his take on his time in the White House at a lunch with a few dozen Republican Senate aides. Spoiler: the lawyer was far from all smiles when it came to Donald Trump.
He told those assembled:
‘I spent the last couple years getting yelled at. And you may soon read about some of the more spirited debates I had with the president.’
He figured prominently in some of the presidential behavior that sparked allegations of obstruction of justice in relation to the Russia investigation. For instance, Trump directed McGahn to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired at one point, but the lawyer refused and instead drafted a resignation letter of his own. Confronting the president with the possibility of McGahn resigning in protest got him to lay off trying to direct Mueller’s firing for the moment, at least.
In the time since, Mueller’s team has completed their Russia investigation and submitted their report to the Justice Department, which is currently reviewing the document for classified information, material protected by grand jury legislation, and other possible redaction targets before submitting a copy to Congress (and the public). Although McGahn apparently did not explicitly cite the Mueller report, lunch attendees apparently understood the lawyer to be referring to the document in discussing the possibility of soon reading of his contentious relationship with the president. Mueller examined obstruction of justice alongside the original question of possible Russian collusion, ultimately declining to himself make a traditional final prosecutorial judgment.
During his time with Republican Senate aides last week, McGahn explained some of the behind-the-scenes facets to the behavior that warranted those obstruction allegations in the first place. He explained that the Trump White House operates according to a “hub and spokes model” wherein “Trump is the hub and makes all the decisions” and “all the senior aides are spokes.”
McGahn added that while on the job he felt “it was important… to get to Trump quickly before he announced a decision based on potentially bad information” because of the speed with which the president made his own decisions and stuck to them, despite potentially stumbling around in the metaphorical dark.
The lawyer is not the only former official to reveal some of the tension from behind the scenes in the White House. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has explained the president as “pretty undisciplined” adding he “doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.'”
Trump is continuing to display the relevance of that modus operandi through means including his relentless commitment to strengthening “border security” in the face of a nonexistent security crisis. He is responding to asylum seekers including plenty of women and children with dramatic, sweeping claims that not a single one should be admitted and a border wall should go up to block future prospects.
Featured Image via screenshot