Welcome To Silkwood, Don McGahn
Poor, sad Don McGahn just wants his old life back. He wants to go back to his job at a fancy law firm where he commands the respect and salary that is the birthright of every tall, weak-chinned white guy in good standing with the Federalist Society. He wants to engage in a little partisan ratfuckery, safe in the knowledge that he can go to Whole Foods without some lady in a diamond tennis bracelet -- someone who looks just like him -- yelling that he's destroying the country. And most of all, he'd like to be free of the nagging fear that the whole edifice is going to come crumbling down on top of him, and he'll be hauled in front of Congress for Watergate-style hearings, remembered forever for his role in the scandal that brought down the Republican party.
Sorry, Don! You pays your money, and you takes your chances.
McGahn is currently trying to thread the world's tiniest needle, loudly proclaiming his loyalty to a vindictive loon who lashes out at perceived enemies, while simultaneously telegraphing to Mueller that he himself was not involved in anything illegal. And would it be too much to ask if he could just come out of this without the radioactive taint that forces him to spend the rest of his professional life in the conservative welfare ghetto? (Spoiler alert: LOL, good luck with that.) So when you read some puff piece quoting "sources close to McGahn" saying that the poor guy is just trying to be a loyal soldier while keeping his nose clean, you can take that with several large grains of salt.
The NYT story of McGahn's 30-hour coffee klatch with Robert Mueller set off a firestorm in Trumpland, when it finally occurred to Donald Trump's most excellent lawyers that they had no idea what McGahn told the special counsel back in November. This kicked off several days of McGahn's people assuring the White House that their guy is totes #TeamTrump and DID NOT INCRIMINATE the president. The Post reports,
McGahn's attorney, Bill Burck, told Trump's lawyers this past weekend that McGahn did not assert that Trump engaged in any wrongdoing when he spoke to Mueller's investigators in three lengthy interviews since last November, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.
"He did not incriminate him," Burck wrote in one email, which was described by multiple people.
That's a pretty carefully worded statement there, Bill! Glad to know that your client is just laying out the facts, not telling Mueller HERE'S ALL THE CRIMES DONALD TRUMP COMMITTED.
Naturally, Trump weighed in with his usual gravitas.
And then Rudy Giuliani was dispatched to sing another chorus of his smash hit THIS IS ALL FINE for any media outlet that would have him.
"I got a complete version of what McGahn said during that period of time," said the guy who claimed Mueller was wrapping up his case by July, Trump paid Michael Cohen back for the pornstar payoff with a "retainer," and there's no campaign finance violation if you eventually pay the money back.
Too subtle? We're suggesting that perhaps Rudy is a less than reliable reporter of "truth" here on Planet Earth. Also, what the hell is this?
What we try to do in this situation is we debrief each other because there's a joint defense. And at the time, John Dowd got a complete version of what McGahn said during that period of time.
Back up there, Poppy! The president and the White House Counsel DO NOT have a "joint defense," because OMG, shut up those words don't mean what you think they do. Unless Robert Mueller is about to try McGahn and Trump for knocking over a Capitol Hill liquor store together, these guys aren't waiving attorney-client privilege so their lawyers can mount a joint defense. Also, there's the small matter of Don McGahn being Trump's goddamn lawyer -- well, the lawyer for the office of the presidency -- NOT A CO-DEFENDANT.
But wait, there's more! If they can't Hot-tub Time Machine their way back into executive privilege, the GREAT LEGAL MINDS in Trumpland are floating an alternative theory.
BETSY WOODRUFF: What I was told is that when John Dowd and Ty Cobb waived executive privilege, so so many people, including McGahn from the White House, could testify to Mueller, they only waived the executive privilege for within the executive branch. So, hypothetically, let's say McGahn told Mueller, or gave Mueller evidence that a White House official broke the law. The president's legal team's thinking is that Mueller would not be able to introduce that evidence to a grand jury, which is part of the judicial branch, not the executive branch, without getting a subpoena. And the president's legal team could then fight it.
Well, those are all words! Leaving aside the fact that an executive privilege claim would almost certainly have failed, claiming that Trump waived the privilege for an interview with Mueller, but not for taking that evidence to the grand jury, is some weapons-grade horse shit. As former prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted, "It would be hard to argue with a straight face."
So where does that leave Don McGahn? In the toxic waste dump, along with every other lowlife who sacrificed his or her reputation on the altar of tax cuts and ratfucking the judiciary. Welcome to your new life as a pariah, Mr. McGahn. But hey, cheer up, dude! It only took 30 years for John Dean to recover his reputation -- although he did have to go to jail first, so ...
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.