Former White House adviser Don McGahn said asking the Justice Department to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller at former President Trump’s call would have been a “point of no return” that made him feel “trapped” in his position.
But in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee after a two-year court battle, McGahn said he did not witness any crime or obstruction of justice and agreed with the president’s other decisions, including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
McGahn’s testimony came almost four years after the episodes documented in Mueller̵
McGahn testified that the former president repeatedly asked him to tell former deputy attorney, Rod Rosenstein, that Mueller had conflicts of interest that would prevent him from acting as special counsel. The discussions happened so many times that McGahn said he felt “caught” by the request and ready to step down if asked to do so again.
McGahn said his concern about calling Rosenstein was that the former deputy attorney, “could potentially react in a way that would cause him to resign, and that would lead to a chain reaction that would not be in anyone’s interest,” ” he said.
He described the moment to the Special Adviser as a “turning point” in Müller’s report and extended it in his interview with the House Judiciary, saying it would have been “a point of no return”.
“If the acting attorney general received what he believed was a guide from the attorney to the president to remove a special attorney, he would either have to remove the special counsel or resign,” McGahn said.
McGahn referred to the infamous Saturday Night massacre when then-President Richard Nixon’s two top officials at the Justice Department withdrew rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.
“We’re still talking about the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ decades and decades later. And looking back, one always wonders if, as a student in history, one could have gone differently if different people made different decisions?”, McGahn said. . “This seemed to be a turning point. It was time to hit the brakes and not call Rod to raise this issue, as the President continued to travel with me. It seemed to me that it would be easier for me not to make call and take the heat or fallout that is, than to cause a chain reaction that I think would not be in the president’s interest. “
Moments later, however, McGahn warned not to read too much into the analogy because, for example, Mr. Trump “never came anywhere near orders to close Müller’s office. It was Müller and conflicts.”
McGahn said Mr. Trump never asked him to call Mueller directly and fire him. He also said he supported the former president on another controversial topic, his decision to fire Comey.
“The narrative at the time, as I recall it, was that the removal of the director of the FBI was its own problem. In my opinion, it was not. It was within the power of the president,” McGahn said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement that McGahn “provided the committee with significant new information – including first-hand reports of President Trump’s increasingly out of control behavior and insight into concerns that the former president’s behavior could expose both Trump and McGahn. criminal liability. “
“All in all, Mr. McGahn’s testimony gives us a new look at how dangerously close President Trump brought us to, in Mr. McGahn’s words, ‘point of no return,'” he added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed McGahn’s testimony as “a victory for democracy.”
But the committee’s top Republican, Jim Jordan, issued a note arguing that the interview did not reveal any evidence of misconduct, misconduct or crime by the former president or any attempt to stifle other inquiries from the administration.
McGahn’s testimony to the panel marks the culmination of a years-long dispute over a lawsuit issued by the judiciary in April 2019, after Mueller published his long-awaited report. McGahn met voluntarily with Mueller’s investigators and was widely quoted in the Special Council’s volume on obstruction of justice, which did not conclude whether Trump was guilty or innocent of such charges.
Under the court’s agreement on his testimony, McGahn could only answer questions about what he told the Special Adviser and any episode in which he was referred to in the publicly available version of the report.
Zak Hudak, Nikole Killion, Paulina Smolinski and Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.