Don McGahn
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Today Trump tweeted that Don McGahn would be leaving his job as White House counsel. Apparently the announcement came as a surprise to McGahn.

Trump’s announcement of McGahn’s departure came as a surprise, including to McGahn.

He was not aware that Trump planned to send the tweet before it posted, according to a person close to McGahn who was not authorized to speak publicly.

“He was surprised,” this person said. While it had been an open secret inside the White House that McGahn planned to leave after Kavanaugh’s confirmation process concludes, he had not discussed his plans directly with Trump, according to this person.

What strikes me about all of this is that it’s probably not a coincidence that this development came about a week and a half after we learned that McGahn has cooperated fairly extensively with the Mueller investigation, particularly in terms of what he knows about possible obstruction of justice charges.

That connection was highlighted today by a report from Murray Waas concerning what the president knew when he asked former FBI Director James Comey to “let the Flynn thing go.” To put the Waas revelation in context, here’s a timeline for how the entire Flynn affair went down:

Dec. 29, 2016 – Obama administration sanctions Russia for interfering in the election

Dec. 29, 2016 – Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak have a phone conversation in which they discuss the sanctions and Flynn asks that the Russians not retaliate, indicating that Trump will take care of things after the inauguration. The conversation is recorded by the FBI.

Jan. 24, 2017 – The FBI interviews Flynn about his conversation with Kislyak and he lies about the content of the conversation.

Jan. 26, 2017 – Acting Attorney General Sally Yates meets with McGahn to inform him that Flynn lied to the FBI, which means that he was compromised and vulnerable to blackmail.

Jan. 26, 2017 – McGahn and Reince Priebus meet with Trump and inform him that Flynn is the subject of a criminal investigation by the FBI.

Feb. 2, 2017 – John Eisenberg, counsel to the president for national security affairs who reports to McGahn, reviews the intercepts of Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak. 

Feb. 13, 2017 – After learning on Feb. 8th that the Washington Post planned to publish a story on the intercepts of the Flynn/Kislyak conversation, Flynn resigns to avoid being fired.

Feb. 14, 2017 – Trump asks Comey to “let the Flynn thing go.”

The bolded events are the ones Waas added to the story. The reason they’re important is because, in order to legally prove obstruction of justice, Mueller’s team has to demonstrate that the president intended to do so. Trump’s lawyers have claimed that Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Pence and that, at the time he asked Comey to let the whole thing go, he didn’t know that Flynn was under criminal investigation. If McGahn and Priebus told Trump about the fact that Flynn had lied to the FBI and Eisenberg reviewed the intercepts of the conversation, the president’s entire defense is proven to be a lie.

Waas further reports that his information about this timeline comes from a memo created by McGahn that is dated February 15, 2017, which he has read it in its entirety, and that the memo is now in the possession of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Reports are that Trump only learned of McGahn’s extensive cooperation with the Mueller team a week and a half ago. Since then, his lawyers have been looking into that testimony. It is very likely that because of that, they not only learned that McGahn had created this memo, but had given it to the investigators. Anyone still think that the president unceremoniously dumping on his White House counsel today was a coincidence?

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