White House asked McGahn to de­clare Trump never ob­structed jus­tice

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY MICHAEL S. SCH­MIDT

WASH­ING­TON

White House of­fi­cials asked at least twice in the past month for the key wit­ness against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in the Mueller report, Don­ald McGahn, to say pub­licly that he never be­lieved the pres­i­dent ob­structed jus­tice, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple briefed on the re­quests.

Trump asked White House of­fi­cials to make the re­quest to McGahn, who was the pres­i­dent’s first White House coun­sel, one of the peo­ple said. McGahn de­clined. His re­luc­tance an­gered the pres­i­dent, who be­lieved that McGahn showed dis­loy­alty by telling in­ves­ti­ga­tors for the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert Mueller, about Trump’s at­tempts to main­tain con­trol over the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The White House made one of the re­quests to McGahn’s lawyer, Wil­liam A. Burck, be­fore the Mueller report was re­leased pub­licly but af­ter the Jus­tice De­part­ment gave a copy to Trump’s lawyers in the pre­ced­ing days. Read­ing the report, the pres­i­dent’s lawyers saw that Mueller left out that McGahn had told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he be­lieved the pres­i­dent never ob­structed jus­tice. Burck had told them months ear­lier about his client’s be­lief on the mat­ter and that he had shared it with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

McGahn ini­tially en­ter­tained the White House re­quest. “We did not per­ceive it as any kind of threat or some­thing sin­is­ter,” Burck said in a state­ment. “It was a re­quest, pro­fes­sion­ally and cor­dially made.”

But af­ter the report was re­leased, de­tail­ing the range of ac­tions Trump took to try to im­pede the in­quiry, McGahn de­cided to pass on putting out a state­ment sup­port­ive of the pres­i­dent. The report also re­vealed that Trump told aides he be­lieved McGahn had leaked to the news me­dia to make him­self look good.

The episodes show the lengths the White House has gone around the re­lease of the Mueller report to push back on the no­tion that Trump ob­structed jus­tice. House Democrats have used the report to open in­ves­ti­ga­tions into whether Trump abused his po­si­tion to in­su­late him­self from the Rus­sia in­quiry.

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