After it was revealed that the White House counsel, Don McGahn, had spoken to Robert Mueller for 30 hours, Donald Trump went into defensive mode sending Rudy Giuliani out on the Sunday talk shows. It only became more evident that the story was true, and Trump’s lawyers have no idea how much was told to the special counsel’s investigators.
Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, gave the president’s lawyers a short overview of the interview but few details, and he did not inform them of what Mr. McGahn said in subsequent interactions with the investigators, according to a person close to Mr. Trump. Mr. McGahn and Mr. Burck feared that Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible wrongdoing, so they embraced the opening to cooperate fully with Mr. Mueller in an effort to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn had done nothing wrong.
Legal experts and former White House counsels said the president’s lawyers had been careless in not asking Mr. McGahn what he had planned to tell Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors. The experts said Mr. Trump’s lawyers had the right to know the full extent of what Mr. McGahn was going to say.
Robert F. Bauer, a White House counsel under President Barack Obama, said Mr. McGahn’s lawyer might have taken the most prudent course for his client by not addressing “each and every detail about the questions that were specifically asked and the specific answers given.”
President Trump insists that his White House counsel isn’t a “RAT” like the Watergate-era White House attorney who turned on Richard Nixon, and he is blasting the ongoing Russia investigation as “McCarthyism.”
Trump, in a series of angry tweets, denounced a New York Times story that his White House counsel, Don McGahn, has been cooperating extensively with the special counsel team investigating Russian election meddling and potential collusion with Trump’s Republican campaign.
“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,’” Trump wrote, misspelling the word “counsel. “But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide …”
The New York Times said it stands by its story.
Dean, a frequent critic of the president, was the White House counsel for Nixon during the Watergate scandal. He ultimately cooperated with prosecutors and helped bring down the Nixon presidency in 1974, though he served a prison term for obstruction of justice.
Dean tweeted Saturday night in response to the Times story: “Trump, a total incompetent, is bungling and botching his handling of Russiagate. Fate is never kind to bunglers and/or botchers! Unlike Nixon, however, Trump won’t leave willingly or graciously.”
He added Sunday in response to Trump’s tweets that he doubts the president has “ANY IDEA what McGahn has told Mueller. Also, Nixon knew I was meeting with prosecutors, b/c I told him. However, he didn’t think I would tell them the truth!”
Trump’s original legal team had encouraged McGahn and other White House officials to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, and McGahn spent hours in interviews.
Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump didn’t raise executive privilege or attorney-client privilege during those interviews because his team believed — he says now, wrongly — that fully participating would be the fastest way to bring the investigation to a close.
“The president encouraged him to testify, is happy that he did, is quite secure that there is nothing in the testimony that will hurt the president,” Giuliani said.
McGahn’s attorney William Burck added in a statement: “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.”
Trump on Sunday continued to rail against the Mueller investigation, which he has labeled a “witch hunt.”
“So many lives have been ruined over nothing – McCarthyism at its WORST!” Trump tweeted, referencing the indiscriminate and damaging allegations made by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to expose communists.
“Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!” he later wrote.
Giuliani, in his interview, also acknowledged that the reason for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer, arranged by Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., was that they had been promised dirt on Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
“The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about Clinton,” he said, adding that the Trump team didn’t know that Natalia Veselnitskaya was Russian — even though emails later released by Trump Jr. show that she had been described as a “Russian government attorney.”
Giuliani also tried to make the case that having Trump sit down for an interview with Mueller’s team wouldn’t accomplish much because of the he-said-she-said nature of witnesses’ recollections.
“It’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth,” he said, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd: “Truth isn’t truth.”
Todd appeared flummoxed by the comment, responding: “This is going to become a bad meme.”