President Donald Trump on Saturday pushed back against a report from The New York Times that White House counsel Don McGahn has shared extensive details with special counsel Robert Mueller about whether Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Russia probe.
“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 Saturday evening. “In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history. No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also played down the idea that there was any tension between Trump and McGahn.
“The president and Don have a great relationship,” Sanders said in a statement. “He appreciates all the hard work he’s done, particularly his help and expertise with the judges, and the Supreme Court nominees.”
On Sunday, Trump circled back to the topic with another string of tweets. “The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’ But I allowed him and all others to testify — I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide,” he wrote in the first one, twice spelling “counsel” wrong.
Returning to a regular theme, he added: “No Collusion and No Obstruction, except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats.”
McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, said in a statement that the president had freed the White House counsel to speak openly to Mueller’s team.
“President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn’s testimony, so Mr. McGahn answered the Special Counsel team’s questions fulsomely and honestly, as any person interviewed by federal investigators must,” Burck said.
The New York Times reported earlier on Saturday that McGahn has been willing to share numerous details with Mueller’s investigators, and that he has provided at least three voluntary interviews with Mueller’s team that spanned 30 hours over the past nine months.
The report stated that McGahn made the calculation to “protect himself” by fully cooperating with Mueller.
The high-profile NYT coverage threatens to add further tensions as Trump decides whether or not to sit down with Mueller for an interview.
Trump has aggressively denied any collusion with Russian officials in the lead-up to the election or any attempt to obstruct the Justice Department’s investigation into such allegations, regularly dismissing the probe as a “witch hunt.”
Trump has been under scrutiny, in particular, for firing former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump pushed to back off the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, which is said to be part of the larger Russia probe.
POLITICO reported in March that McGahn was expected to step down from his post later this year, but that his departure may hinge on whether there was another opening for Trump to fill on the Supreme Court — an opening that emerged with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
McGahn on three occasions has met voluntarily with the special counsel. In one meeting with Mueller earlier this year, the White House counsel described an encounter with an angry Trump badgering him to publicly dispute a January 2018 New York Times story that said the president ordered him to fire Mueller.
McGahn also told Mueller how the president tried without success to get his then-staff secretary, Rob Porter, to warn McGahn that he could be fired if he didn’t deny that Times article. The president and McGahn had a rough spring and summer working together throughout the defining moments of the Russia probe in 2017.
The president lashed out at his White House counsel in the Oval Office for not doing more to kill the Russia probe when it was in its infancy.
McGahn threatened to quit that June 2017 after Trump pushed the idea of firing Mueller and backed down only when the president did, too. And the White House counsel ultimately recused himself from the Russia probe that same month because too many people working with him were being questioned about the roles they played in the Comey and Flynn firings.
All of the president’s Russia matters since McGahn stepped back — to focus on regulations and judicial nominations — have been handled by a still-evolving list of personal and official White House lawyers: Marc Kasowitz, John Dowd, Jay Sekulow, Ty Cobb, Jane and Marty Raskin, Emmet Flood and Rudy Giuliani.