Don McGahn almost resigned over concerns about Trump-Kushner meetings



Donald Trump Jared Kushner
U.S.
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he and White House
Senior Advisor Jared Kushner depart the White House in
Washington, U.S., March 15, 2017.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

  • White House staffers were reportedly worried that White
    House counsel Don McGahn would resign this summer
  • McGahn was said to have been frustrated over President
    Trump’s frequent meetings with Jared Kushner
  • Trump and Kushner are subjects in Robert Mueller’s
    Russia investigation, and McGahn was reportedly worried their
    meetings could be seen as an effort to coordinate
    stories

West Wing staffers were concerned that White House counsel Don
McGahn would quit earlier this summer because of his
frustration over meetings between President Donald Trump and his
senior and adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, The Wall Street
Journal reported on
Friday. 

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into
Russian interference in the 2016 election is
focusing on both Trump and Kushner
, and whether the Trump
campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the election in his favor.

Kushner
invited scrutiny
after he met with two Russian officials —
Russia’s former ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and the
head of a sanctioned Russian bank, Sergey Gorkov — during the
transition period. Kushner was also present during a June 2016
meeting at Trump Tower between top members of the Trump campaign
and several Russians, including a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin
who had offered compromising information on Democratic
nominee Hillary Clinton.  

Mueller’s focus on Trump appears to center primarily around
his decision to fire former FBI director James Comey in May
and his motivations for doing so. The White House initially
said Comey had been dismissed because of his handling of the
Clinton email investigation, but
Trump later told NBC’s Lester Holt
that “this Russia
thing” was a factor in his decision. 

Given their proximity to the Russia probe, McGahn was reportedly
concerned that the frequency with which Trump and Kushner met
could be seen as an attempt to coordinate their stories, three
officials familiar with the matter told The Journal. 


Don McGahn
Don McGahn, general
counsel for the Trump transition team, gets into an elevator in
the lobby at Trump Tower, November 15, 2016 in New York City.
President-elect Donald Trump is in the process of choosing his
presidential cabinet as he transitions from a candidate to the
president-elect.


Drew Angerer/Getty
Images



The White House counsel was so frustrated that then chief of
staff Reince Priebus and then chief strategist Steve Bannon had
to urge McGahn not to resign. He ultimately decided to stay after
learning that Trump had hired a legal team, headed by
white-collar defense attorney Ty Cobb, tasked with handling the
White House’s response to Mueller’s investigation, according to
the report. 

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote on
Friday that part of McGahn’s concern regarding meetings
between Kushner and Trump could center around the fact that both
men were witness to McGahn’s thought process surrounding Comey’s
firing. 

The weekend before
he fired Comey on May 9
, Trump put together a draft letter
laying out his reasons for dismissing the FBI director at his
Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. Kushner, who reportedly
argued strongly for Comey’s firing, was also at the club that
weekend, as was top policy adviser Stephen Miller and Trump’s
daughter, Ivanka. Cobb confirmed to Business
Insider
earlier this month that the letter is in Mueller’s
possession. 

After the letter was drafted, McGahn reportedly advised Trump against
sending
 it to Comey and gave Miller a marked-up copy of
the letter, highlighting several sections that he believed
could be problematic and needed to be struck. McGahn is one
of the White House staffers Mueller is interested in
interviewing, likely because of his involvement in the events
leading up to Comey’s firing. 

It’s unclear what, if any, role Kushner had in crafting the
letter. But if both he and Trump were witness to McGahn’s thought
process around Comey’s firing, their statements to one another
could be “fair game” for Mueller to dig into as part of his
investigation, Mariotti wrote. If the president met
frequently enough with Kushner, Mueller could probe into their
conversations and find inconsistencies in their stories, he
added. 

McGahn is doing what any good defense attorney would do in
these situations–create a protocol to ensure there is a ‘prover’
in the room for these conversations so that the third person
could verify that issues relating to the investigation were never
discussed,” Mariotti wrote. 



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