President Trump announced this week that White House counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his post.
White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
The announcement brings McGahn’s tumultuous tenure to an end. Most notably, he threatened last year to resign if Trump continued to press for the removal of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia investigation.
McGahn recently made headlines as the New York Times reported he was extensively cooperating with Mueller’s probe, particularly as to whether Trump obstructed justice during the campaign.
What’s the role of the White House counsel anyway? Don McGahn described it himself at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference, saying, “It is the primary legal adviser to the president, where I advise the president on a range of issues from constitutional law, executive power, whether or not we can go to war, judicial selection, administrative law, essentially government law that the president has to encounter on a day-to-day basis.”
The White House website says, “It is often said that the office sits at the intersection of law, policy, and politics.”
Attorney-client privilege between the White House counsel and the president applies only to official matters. It doesn’t apply to allegations of misconduct while in office, such as impeachment proceedings. For such confidential legal advice, the president relies on a personal attorney — Rudy Giuliani in Trump’s case.
Attorney Emmett Flood is the likely pick to replace McGahn as he has represented top government officials in the administrations of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.