Thursday, April 25, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said he didn't tell Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller—and that you're not allowed to ask Don McGahn if that's true.

Judging by today's tweets, Trump is determined to create a narrative where he "respectfully" allowed the Mueller investigation to proceed. (It's difficult to count the number of times Trump has insulted Mueller by saying that he is "conflicted," or "disgraced and discredited" or "just someone looking for trouble," and so forth.) 

More specifically, he tweeted today, "I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller."

Here is what the Mueller report, based on McGahn's own testimony, says about Trump's repeated orders to McGahn to fire Mueller, or convince others to do so:

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn and directed him to have the
Special Counsel removed
. McGahn was at home and the President was at Camp David. In interviews with this Office, McGahn recalled that the President called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel. 
On the first call, McGahn recalled that the President said something like, "You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod." McGahn said he told the President that he would see what he could do. McGahn was perturbed by the call and did not intend to act on the request. He and other advisors believed the asserted conflicts were "silly" and "not real," and they had previously communicated that view to the President. McGahn also had made clear to the President that the White House Counsel's Office should not be involved in any effort to press the issue of conflicts. McGahn was concerned about having any role in asking the Acting Attorney General to fire the Special Counsel because he had grown up in the Reagan era and wanted to be more like Judge Robert Bork and not "Saturday Night Massacre Bork." McGahn considered the President's request to be an inflection point and he wanted to hit the brakes.  
When the President called McGahn a second time to follow up on the order to call the Department of Justice, McGahn recalled that the President was more direct, saying something like, "Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel." McGahn recalled the President telling him "Mueller has to go" and "Call me back when you do it." McGahn understood the President to be saying that the Special Counsel had to be removed by Rosenstein. To end the conversation with the President, McGahn left the President with the impression that McGahn would call Rosenstein. McGahn recalled that he had already said no to the President's request and he was worn down, so he just wanted to get off the phone.  
McGahn recalled feeling trapped because he did not plan to follow the President's directive but did not know what he would say the next time the President called. McGahn decided he had to resign. He called his personal lawyer and then called his chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, to inform her of his decision. He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter. Donaldson recalled that McGahn told her the President had called and demanded he contact the Department of Justice and that the President wanted him to do something that McGahn did not want to do. McGahn told Donaldson that the President had called at least twice and in one of the calls asked "have you done it?"

In other words, Trump is saying one thing about what he said to McGahn, and the Mueller report based on McGahn's own testimony is saying another.

Trump continues to insist that Congress should not be allowed to ask McGahn which version is true.

So what?

  • Past a certain point, lying becomes less about fooling people and more about insulting their intelligence.
  • It's wrong (and a crime) to obstruct justice.