More than 700 days since special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was selected for the job, the long-awaited moment arrived on Thursday: Attorney General William P. Barr released the Mueller report.
The report landed with a few surprises. Chief among them was that Trump on multiple occasions did try to influence the investigation. His attempts, however, were “mostly unsuccessful” because “the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
The White House’s revolving door has left some members of Trump’s inner circle investigated, indicted and worse off than they were before. But not former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who left the administration in October but was front and center in thwarting some of Trump’s efforts.
Here are several notable Trump requests and McGahn appearances in the Mueller report, which left Trump “seething" Friday and directing “much of his ire” at the former White House counsel, The Post reported.
Request 1: Convince Sessions not to recuse himself.
The Justice Department began assessing whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from the Russia investigation in late February 2017.
According to the Mueller report, when Trump learned Sessions was considering it, he called McGahn and urged him “to tell [Sessions] not to recuse himself.”
McGahn testified that he did contact Sessions, per the president’s request, and relayed that Trump was unhappy about the possibility. Sessions said he planned to follow the ethics officials’ final recommendation for recusal.
“They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” Sessions said at the time, adding that he agreed with the assessment.
McGahn returned to Trump, who, according to the report, was irate. The president said that the recusal was “unfair” and that it was “interfering with his ability to govern and undermining his authority with foreign leaders.”
Throughout the day, McGahn spoke to Sessions, his personal lawyer, chief of staff and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) but was unable to persuade him to change his mind. Sessions said that his decision to recuse was not discretionary.
That afternoon, on May 2, 2017, Sessions announced his recusal, explaining “the decision to recuse was not a close call” under the law.
Trump called McGahn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon to the Oval Office the next day.
McGahn recalled Trump began the meeting “expressing anger” and saying, “I don’t have a lawyer.” Trump went on to suggest that “[Roy] Cohn would fight for the President whereas McGahn would not.”
Request 2: Remove special counsel Mueller.
Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017, prompted Trump to say that “it was the end of his presidency,” according to the report.
McGahn testified that the president had asked him to “do crazy shit,” like directing him in June to have Mueller removed. Trump, he said, ordered him to tell then-acting attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein not only that there was a conflict, but also that “Mueller has to go.”
(After Mueller was cleared to conduct the investigation, McGahn told Trump that “he would not call Rosenstein and that he would suggest that the President not make such a call either,” according to the lawyer’s notes.)
Trump spoke to McGahn about “knocking out Mueller” on at least two occasions, making it unlikely that he misheard or misinterpreted the president, Mueller wrote in the report.
In June 2017, The Washington Post reported that an obstruction investigation into Trump’s action was underway. Trump called McGahn and asked him to act immediately: “You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod,” he recounted.
McGahn hung up and decided to resign, according to the report, because he “did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre.”
McGahn “called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed up his office, prepared to submit a resignation letter with his chief of staff.” He informed Priebus and Bannon that he was resigning. At their insistence, McGahn returned to work that Monday, but Trump did not raise the issue with him again.
Request 3: Deny reports of requests to fire the special counsel.
In January 2018, the New York Times reported that Trump had asked McGahn to have Mueller fired. The president’s personal lawyer requested that McGahn release a statement claiming the story was inaccurate.
McGahn refused several times.
In one Oval Office meeting, Trump challenged his note-taking practices; according to the report, Trump was angry that McGahn had told federal investigators he directed McGahn to have Mueller removed.
McGahn recounted Trump telling him: “Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.”
According to the Mueller report, McGahn said “real lawyers” keep notes, then explained that creating a record was “not a bad thing.”
The president responded, “I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.”
The Post reported Friday that “the fact that some of those notes became primary source material for Mueller to paint a vivid portrait of Trump’s deception and malfeasance angered the president.”