One of the bigger news stories of the day has been the announced departure of White House legal counsel Don McGahn this fall. The story, originally reported by Axios, was confirmed by Donald Trump in a tweet – a tweet that, according to sources, caught McGahn off guard.
Chuck Grassley, Mitch McConnell, and others have spoken out about the news, with Grassley begging the President to prevent it from happening. By all accounts, McGahn is very good.
But if you believe the rumor mill, the McGahn stories are being pushed out by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who are still bitter at White House personnel for trying to limit her access to her father. That particular bit of news is not surprising, but it is a sign that the Trump Administration is hurt more by members of the Trump family than any outside force.
Trump’s legal predicaments, whether you believe they are justifiable or not, are coming to a head soon, and someone more important than Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen will be taken down at some point. If you believe some of the insider wisdom, Kushner is high on the list of possible targets.
This all comes back to Trump in a bad way, however. For decades, he has relied on fixers like Michael Cohen to be his legal force. But, in dealing with an investigation like Mueller’s, there is no simple fix. There will be a demand for blood at some point, and I do not think Trump is prepared for it. He has never truly dealt with a major legal predicament like this, and his go-to guys are ill-equipped (and also out of play thanks to previous investigations) to handle this.
The Washington Post has more on this:
Within Trump’s orbit, there is consensus that his current legal team is not equipped to effectively navigate an onslaught of congressional demands, and there has been broad discussion about bringing on new lawyers experienced in white-collar defense and political scandals.
The president and some of his advisers have discussed possibly adding veteran defense attorney Abbe Lowell, who currently represents Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, to Trump’s personal legal team if an impeachment battle or other fights with Congress emerge after the midterm elections, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Right there in the second quoted paragraph is a problem: This isn’t a matter Trump should leave to family and friends of the family. Sycophants have been doing more damage to his presidency than anything. He needs legal experience from outside his orbit, and he needs it in the form of people who know Washington and how it works.
In other words, he’s going to need the swamp.
Still, Trump has not directed his lawyers or his political aides to prepare an action plan, leaving allies to fret that the president does not appreciate the magnitude of what could be in store next year.
This account of the president and his team grappling with a potential crisis is based on interviews this week with 26 White House officials, presidential advisers, and lawyers and strategists close to the administration, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said he and the president have discussed the possibility that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will issue a damning report to Congress.
Trump and his team are worried about impeachment, which frankly should be the least of his worries. Impeachment could pass a Democrat-controlled House, but with more moderate Democratic voices cautioning against it, a thin Democratic majority might not be able to pass the articles. Even if they did, however, the proceedings die in the Senate.
Trump’s bigger concern, however, should be the prospect of investigation after investigation into his administration, his business dealings, and anything else Congressional Democrats can think of. They will have the power to set up their own special committees and make the next two years absolutely miserable for him.
Right now, Democrats are still the favorite to win the House of Representatives. That means all of this is likely. Forget impeachment. You have committee after committee feeding report after report to friendly media and you have an endless PR nightmare.
Yes, even in an era where the American public doesn’t trust the media.
I hope the Trump administration is taking the legal proceedings seriously. Not because I have any particular affection for them, but because the administration has made good moves even when Trump has behaved badly. Investigations and committees will put him on the defensive permanently (well… even more permanently than he seems to be now) and when he’s defensive, he doesn’t tout the good at all. Instead, he’ll play the victim, and that will sour people quickly.