Don McGahn, Trump’s first White House lawyer, is a dedicated conservative who was largely responsible for the selection and lifetime appointments of Messrs Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. After Trump fired FBI director Comey, for refusing to commit to personal loyalty to the president and for not dropping the “Flynn Thing” (Mike Flynn’s illegal contacts with Russia that he lied about), the DOJ appointed a Special Counsel to investigate numerous connections between the Trump campaign and Russia and Trump’s suspicious loyalty to Vladimir Putin, a foreign leader who had openly (and secretly) helped Trump win the “close” election of 2016.
During his famous Oval Office reaction to the news of Robert Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel, Trump said “this is the end of my presidency, I’m fucked!” according to sworn witnesses. You can look it up. Trump was outraged at this intrusion on to his unlimited executive powers. Partisan witch hunt was a common cry, conducted by “sick and dangerous individuals” who he would punish when the time was right. After a moment of self-pity Trump exploded at his team for letting this witch hunt start in the first place, and his vendetta against the loyal, but not loyal enough, Jeff Sessions began in earnest.
Members of Trump’s inner circle lied to Mueller’s investigators, in exchange for the promise of a pardon from the big guy, which they got. Mueller found 140 instances of coordination, working together, direct communication, collusion, between members of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, a foreign actor who worked tirelessly to swing the election to Trump. Mueller found there was no doubt of the ongoing collusion, which is not a legal term, but that there was “insufficient evidence” of a criminal conspiracy. Mueller also noted evidence had been withheld and numerous witnesses had lied to him. Hence Barr’s finding of “no collusion” and the announcement that Mueller had “exonerated” Trump of all wrong-doing.
When Mueller started digging he encountered so much lying from Trump’s people, the president’s refusal to answer even written questions his lawyers had agreed to have him answer, defiance of every subpoena and numerous other maneuvers to avoid production of evidence that he began to investigate Trump’s apparent obstruction of justice. One of the ten instances Mueller gave to illustrate what appeared to have been a consistent pattern of obstruction (a substantial pattern that did not allow Mueller to exonerate Trump, even if he also couldn’t directly accuse him of — per DOJ memo about accusing a sitting president of a crime — Mueller took that extra step– if he can’t be prosecuted, it’s unfair to accuse him) involved White House counsel Don McGahn.
At one point Trump asked McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn advised the president that firing the Special Counsel investigating obstruction of justice would look bad, could bite him hard. As McGahn told Mueller’s investigators, he’d refused to fire Mueller, consulted his own lawyer, packed up his office and wrote a letter of resignation to Trump. Trump didn’t accept McGahn’s resignation, instead asking him to write a memo stating that they had never discussed firing Mueller. McGahn revealed all this, under oath, to Mueller’s investigators.
When Congress sent McGahn a subpoena to appear before a committee looking into impeaching Trump, McGahn filed a federal suit seeking a ruling on whether Congress had the right to subpoena him, whether such a subpoena would violate attorney-client privilege and any other defense to giving testimony that he could think of. The suit dragged on for a couple of years, long past both Trump impeachments. The predictable delay prevented McGahn from giving public testimony that could have seriously hurt his demanding, sometimes lawless, former client. While nothing McGahn did was illegal, it certainly fits into Trump’s pattern of doing everything possible to obstruct any investigation into anything he has ever done.
Recently McGahn agreed to testify in Congress, behind closed doors, with his own lawyer, and Trump’s lawyer, in the room. According to the deal he struck with those who had subpoenaed him years earlier he would not answer anything outside of the scope of what he had revealed to Mueller under oath. I started reading the transcript of his testimony, which was released in its 240 page entirety the other day. I made it to page 8 where I read:
In a nation of angry, divided, freaked out citizens, this McGahn shit is a dead letter, ancient history, irrelevant, Trump already got away with obstruction of justice, and nobody is going to do anything about his incitement to riot, we’ve seen it a hundred times over now — he publicly did many things far worse than asking his lawyer to lie for him and make a written record of the lie.
Moderate Merrick Garland’s DOJ is so far following up on all of Barr’s objections to investigations into Trump’s monkeyshines. No public disclosure of Barr’s lying, falsely classified memo, we appeal the judge’s ruling, no prosecution of Trump and Barr for using teargas, horses and batons against a peaceful protest for Trump’s photo op, we move to dismiss the lawsuit, no penalty for a president defaming a private citizen “during the scope of his duties,” we appeal the denial of our right to substitute ourselves for the former president in this lawsuit according to federal law.
I may be the only person, certain the only poor bastard I know, who is wondering “what the fuck?!” as I read the words from the McGahn transcript “although this interview is not under oath” you’re still not allowed to lie, you know.
My only hope, I think, is that my head will explode before too much longer. We live in Berlin 1932 and we are watching the principled, decent, reasonable, elected Weimar government let the angry right call all the shots, many of them based on outright, easily demonstrable lies. Alternative facts, driving new laws that could help Trump loyalists overturn the next election, if Americans turn out in large numbers to vote the wrong way again, next time. What could fucking go wrong?
You can say “seig heil!” can’t you you? I know you can.