Former White House counsel Don McGahn is expected to testify before Congress next week about President Trump‘s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, according to a source familiar with the details.
It comes after House Democrats and the Justice Department ended their years long legal fight over his appearance with an agreement that he would be quizzed in private and only on publicly available portions of the Mueller report.
The deal means the Biden administration avoids a potentially awkward ruling that could be used by Republicans to force scrutiny of its own internal deliberations.
But it raises the prospect of more embarrassing headlines for Trump from a key witness who was frequently at odds with the president over his handling of the Mueller investigation.
Don McGahn’s position as White House legal counsel, seen here with Trump during a White House meeting in May 2018, made him a key witness as investigators probed the president and his aides’ ties to Russia
Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election delivered an ambiguous finding on whether Trump obstructed justice, saying it ‘does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him’
Agreement for McGahn to testify ends legal wrangle by specifying that Trump’s former White House counsel need only answer questions about information attributable to him in publicly available portions of the Mueller report
It is one of a string of pending cases that threaten to reveal more secrets about Trump’s time in office.
The deal specifies that the public, press and members of Congress who are not on the Judiciary Committee will not be allowed to attend the interview.
‘Mr. McGahn will be free to decline to answer questions outside of the agreed-upon scope of questioning and counsel from the Department of Justice may instruct Mr. McGahn not to answer such questions,’ says the agreement.
But McGahn will have to answer questions about Trump’s orders to get rid of Robert Mueller as special counsel in June 2017.
Publicly available portions of the Mueller Report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election reveal that Trump twice called McGahn and asked him to remove the special counsel.
In more than 30 hours of sworn testimony, McGahn – whose name appears more than 160 times in the final report – said he would resign before following the president’s orders.
Trump later insisted he did no such thing.
‘If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself,’ he tweeted after the report was published.
Democrats will want to know who was telling the truth. Was it McGahn who told Mueller’s investigators that he was asked by Trump to fire Mueller? Or was it Trump who fired off a string of angry tweets denying he did any such thing about a redacted version of the Mueller report was published in April 2019
Former White House counsel Don McGahn (left) is expected to testify next week in a private hearing before members of the House Judiciary Committee about former President Trump’s request to fire Robert Mueller as head of the investigation into Russian election interference
The report itself was hailed by Trump allies as clearing the president of trying to interfere.
However, its ambiguous finding that it “does not conclude that the President committed a crime’ and ‘it also does not exonerate him’ has left critics wanting to know more.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee will want to know more about what happened in April 2019 when the report was published.
Media reports at the time revealed that Trump sought to have McGahn publicly declare that he did not consider the president’s directive – to remove the head of a federal remove investigation into the president’s activities – to amount to obstruction of justice.
McGahn’s testimony is just one potential source of embarrassing revelations from Trump’s time in office.
McGahn (third from right) was pictured with Trump just after his inauguration ceremony and worked as White House counsel until October 2018
The Department of Justice faces a lawsuit seeking the release of a 2019 legal opinion concluding that Trump did not obstruct justice.
At issue is whether then Attorney General Bill Barr was right in saying the Mueller Report did not support bringing charges against Trump.
This week officials appealed against a judge’s ruling that the full memo be released, as the Biden administration again tried to fight a precedent that would open the executive branch to greater scrutiny.
And court documents unsealed last week shed more light on the conviction and sentencing of Paul Manafort.
Trump’s former campaign manager was pardoned in December, freeing him from a seven-and-a-half-year sentence for crimes related to his overseas lobbying.
But the unsealed documents reveal more details about evidence collected by Mueller’s investigators describing how Manafort lied about sharing campaign polling with an associate linked to Russian intelligence.
A sentencing memorandum warned that Manafort posed a grave risk of committing future crimes.
‘His deceit, which is a fundamental component of the crimes of conviction and relevant conduct, extended to tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the FBI, the Special Counsel’s Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, Members of Congress, and members of the executive branch of the United States government,’ wrote prosecutors.
‘In sum, upon release from jail, Manafort presents a grave risk of recidivism.’