White House counsel Don McGahn, criticized by allies of President Donald Trump for extensively cooperating with the special counsel, will soon leave his job after months of speculation that he was on his way out.
Trump announced the development on Twitter.
Trump said McGahn will oversee the inside Washington campaign to win Senate confirmation next month of federal appellate court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
McGahn has been shepherding Kavanaugh to senators’ offices in recent weeks for lengthy introductory meetings with the lawmakers ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings that start next Tuesday. The White House is hopeful the Senate will confirm Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in time for him to join the court when its new term starts October 1.
Wednesday’s announcement comes amid reported tension between Trump and McGahn, who is said to have been interviewed several times by investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is seeking to determine whether the president obstructed justice in the probe of ties between Trump’s election campaign and Russia.
Reports said McGahn answered questions about many of the inside-the-White House events related to actions that Trump has taken, although McGahn’s lawyer said he did not implicate the president in wrongdoing.
Exasperation with Trump’s temper prompted McGahn to nickname the president “King Kong,” according to a recent article in The New York Times.
“McGahn’s relationship with the president has been strained for quite a while due to the ongoing Russia probe,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, told VOA.
“His likely successor, Emmet Flood, is far better suited experience-wise to lead the legal response” to the special counsel’s requests, said Moss, the deputy executive director of the James Madison Project.
McGahn has been viewed inside the White House and among conservatives as a critical member of Trump’s team, leading the successful effort to put like-minded judges on federal benches and cutting government regulation.
McGahn “has been very effective at implementing the president’s priority of appointing highly qualified judges who have a traditional, modest understanding of their role in our system of government,” according to Thomas Jipping, deputy director for legal and judicial studies at the Heritage Foundation.
“That process has a lot of moving parts and political volatility, but Don has stayed on target and kept it moving,” Jipping told VOA.
The White House counsel was asked by the president in June of 2017 to fire Mueller. According to media reports McGahn, who had been the Trump campaign and transition team top lawyer, refused and threatened to resign.
The 50-year-old former chair of the Federal Election Commission would become the latest in a long line of officials who have left Trump’s 19-month presidency, either officials who have been fired, pushed out or voluntarily departed.
His departure will come as the White House prepares for a likely onslaught of congressional investigations if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives in the November midterm election.
VOA’s Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.