Don McGahn, the former White House counsel credited as an architect of Donald Trump’s makeover of the federal judiciary, has defended Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the supreme court, declaring the conservative judge he vetted was “the right person at the right time”.
Perhaps more surprisingly, in a rare public appearance on Sunday McGahn also laid out why he believed Trump deserves four more years in power, despite having incurred the wrath of his former boss who blamed him for failing to protect him from the Mueller inquiry, and reportedly having compared an angry Trump to King Kong.
“He promised justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia, a great justice,” McGahn told CBS’ Face the Nation. “[Barrett] clerked for Scalia, became a protege of his and I think she’s a fantastic judge. There’s no reason why the Senate shouldn’t confirm her.”
McGahn resigned in October 2018, amid the special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian influence on the Trump administration, with which McGahn cooperated extensively as a witness.
The Mueller report confirmed that McGahn refused orders from the president to have the special counsel fired.
Trump called the allegation “fake news” but tweeted he was “never a big fan” of McGahn. Nonetheless, as White House counsel McGahn masterminded the ascension not only of two supreme court judges, Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, but also hundreds of conservatives to the federal bench.
McGahn has never spoken publicly about his links with the special counsel and Trump’s orders to fire Mueller, having resisted a congressional subpoena for months before a federal appeals court ruled he was not compelled to testify.
McGahn was however quoted by Michael Schmidt, a Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times journalist, in his recent book Donald Trump v the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President. Schmidt said McGahn insisted his cooperation with Mueller “damaged the office of the president”, not the president himself.
“Despite calling Trump ‘King Kong’ behind [his] back for unnecessary destruction and having to serve as chief witness against him in Mueller investigation, McGahn believes so much in mission of remaking federal judiciary that he says Trump deserves four more years,” Schmidt wrote.
McGahn told CBS he thought Trump had earned the right to a second term.
“He had the economy going wonderfully [before the coronavirus pandemic hit], he made a number of promises on the campaign trail that he kept,” he said.
“One is his judicial selection, which he’s done. He’s set a record number of judges on there, on the circuit courts, and this really matters.”