In what may be the most famous recusal in modern history, Jeff Sessions very publicly recused himself from Donald Trump’s Russia investigation shortly after he became Trump’s Attorney General. This handed control over the probe to his Deputy Rod Rosenstein, who has revealed himself to be a straight shooter. It’s also led Trump to very publicly lambast Sessions for having passed up the opportunity to protect him. Now it turns out Trump has yet another huge recusal to rage about.
Donald Trump’s handpicked White House Counsel Don McGahn recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation a year ago, and decided to keep it a secret from the public. Stunningly, he didn’t just recuse himself – he recused everyone in the White House Counsel’s office, according to a new report from Politico. It appears that Donald Trump was well aware of it, as he had his own lawyer Ty Cobb take over the duties of handling the Trump-Russia investigation from the White House’s end. This tells us a lot.
First, it makes clear what we already long suspected: even though Donald Trump hired McGahn to be personally loyal to him, McGahn was never going to stick his neck out in order to protect Trump. Since taking office, Trump has repeatedly made the mistake of thinking that his handpicked people were going to be willing to commit crimes on his behalf, but while some of them have helped him cook up obstruction plots, in the end they’ve tended to back away from Trump’s antics rather than get themselves sent to prison.
Second, there has long been circumstantial evidence that Don McGahn cut a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller early on. McGahn, Reince Priebus, and Sean Spicer have all been represented in the Trump-Russia scandal by the same defense attorney, which is only permitted if all three are mounting the same precise defense. Priebus voluntarily turned over his personal notes about Donald Trump’s obstruction to Mueller last year. If Priebus was cooperating, then by definition it meant Spicer and McGahn were as well. Now we’re learning that McGahn decided to get out of Mueller’s way a year ago – he merely kept it a secret from the public.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report