In the wake of the Mueller report’s release, Trump administration officials asked former White House counsel Don McGahn to publicly declare the president never obstructed justice, according to multiplereports on Friday.
McGahn, one of the key witnesses in the special counsel’s report, refused Trump’s request in part because he didn’t want to comment on the investigation beyond the testimony he had already given to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Mueller’s report, a redacted version of which was made public on April 18, detailed 10 instances in which US President Donald Trump may have obstructed justice by attempting to intervene in the Russia investigation.
Among those instances was one in which McGahn said the president directed him to fire Mueller as special counsel. McGahn rebuffed Trump’s demand ― which proved to be one of several instances of the president’s staff foiling his attempts to influence the investigation.
The president has instead insisted he never asked McGahn to fire Mueller.
“If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself,” Trump tweeted last month.
But the president asked White House special counsel Emmet Flood in private to inquire with McGahn about releasing a statement affirming Trump never obstructed justice by asking him to fire Mueller, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
“We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister. It was a request, professionally and cordially made,” William Burck, a lawyer for McGahn, told the Journal.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The White House subsequently ordered McGahn not to comply with the committee’s subpoena for documents, Burck wrote in a letter to House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) this week. In the letter, Burck said White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had told McGahn not to produce the documents.
Mulvaney argued the documents “implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege,” according to Burck.