President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Don McGahn will leave his job as White House counsel this fall after the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
McGahn has recently attracted media attention for his position as a top White House lawyer, a tricky job where he’s had to navigate the difficulties of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe while playing a major role in facilitating Trump’s rapid appointment of federal judges.
In the summer of 2017, McGahn reportedly threatened to quit rather than direct officials in the Justice Department to fire Mueller, as Trump had ordered, leading Trump to back off.
Here’s what you need to know about McGahn.
What is Don McGahn’s job?
McGahn is currently White House counsel, the top lawyer in the White House. That has put him at the center of the major successes of Trump’s first year, such as nominating and confirming federal judges, as well as the center of controversies, such as the firing of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
When Trump was narrowing down his shortlist for Supreme Court nominees to fill the vacancy Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement created, McGahn reportedly pushed the president to pick Kavanaugh.
But McGahn has recently been at odds with Trump for his cooperation in Mueller’s probe.
Over the past nine months, McGahn has spent at least 30 hours in voluntary interviews with investigators, reportedly describing the president’s opposition toward the Russia investigation and what Trump directed McGahn to do about it.
What is McGahn’s background?
Before working in the White House, McGahn was general counsel for Trump’s presidential campaign. He also used to be a partner specializing in campaign finance at Jones Day, was in-house counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee, and worked as commissioner for the Federal Election Commission from 2008-2013, CNN reports. McGahn is from Atlantic City, New Jersey, and earned his law degree at Widener University.
What is McGahn’s role in the Mueller probe?
Trump had ordered for Mueller to be fired, but ultimately rescinded this order when McGahn threatened that he would resign than ask the Justice Department to dismiss Mueller, the New York Times reported in January.
In the months since then, McGahn has extensively cooperated with federal investigators, giving them insight whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey or his desire to put someone else in charge of investigating ties to Russia in the 2016 election that he gained through conversations he observed or had with the President.
At least one Republican senator already expressed reservations about McGahn leaving the White House.
How does McGahn’s job differ from Trump’s other lawyers?
Trump incorrectly assumed that McGahn would act as his personal lawyer and defend Trump’s interests to investigators, the New York Times reported in August.
According to the 1974 United States v. Nixon Supreme Court case, executive privilege does not hold up in criminal investigations.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s current personal attorney, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who recently pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance regulations, do not have the same barriers to attorney-client privilege.
How long has he worked with Trump?
McGahn first met with Trump in 2014 when the then-real estate tycoon was thinking about running for president, the Wall Street Journal reported.