White House counsel Donald McGahn left his position as the president’s lawyer Wednesday, a planned move that was expedited by President Trump, who tweeted that McGahn would depart after the Kavanaugh confirmation, amid what appeared to be a relationship beset by mutual fatigue. As evidence of the deteriorating relationship between the two, McGahn’s 21-month tenure came to a close without his successor, Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone, ready to take office, as is customary.
While at Trump’s side, McGahn helped the president push through the confirmations of two Supreme Court justices, and was widely seen as a moderating influence on Trump, trying to steer him out of legal peril by stopping the president from firing special counsel Robert Mueller and refusing to strongarm Attorney General Jeff Sessions to disregard his recusal and retake control of the Russia investigation. “But Mr. McGahn had little tolerance for Mr. Trump’s often emotional responses to the legal cloud hanging over his administration, referring to the president as ‘King Kong’—out of Mr. Trump’s earshot—because of his explosive anger,” the New York Times reports. “The president blamed Mr. McGahn for the deputy attorney general’s appointment of Mr. Mueller in May 2017, saying Mr. McGahn had not done enough to control the Justice Department.”
Despite his departure, McGahn’s legacy within the Trump administration may be far from over, as his participation in the Russia investigation as a witness could be pivotal as investigators weigh whether Trump obstructed justice. “McGahn may have [-] caused more damage for Mr. Trump than any other White House official in the special counsel investigation,” the Times notes. “McGahn has spent at least 30 hours with Mr. Mueller’s investigators, laying out how Mr. Trump tried to interfere with or quash the inquiry, including by trying to fire Mr. Mueller himself in the summer of 2017.”