On Thursday, Donald Trump sat down for an interview with George Stephanopoulos at ABC News. In the interview, former White House counsel Don McGahn got an example of what it’s like to work for the nation’s most famous sociopath: Everyone is just one step away from being the next Michael Cohen. You’re a hero when Trump needs you. Then you’re a bum.
McGahn made the crossover into bumhood when Stephanopoulos questioned Trump about his former attorney’s testimony to Robert Mueller’s office. McGahn testified that Trump had, on multiple occasions, tried to get him to fire the special counsel. Trump has since denied the statements and even called McGahn a liar. However, when McGahn was called on to testify before the House, he decided to obey a directive from Trump to ignore a congressional subpoena, earning himself a civil contempt of Congress citation in the process.
In his last appearance, McGahn seemed secure in his support from Trump and determined to follow orders, but … there was a day when Michael Cohen was “a personal friend” and “a great guy” who Trump “always liked and respected.” That day came about two weeks before Cohen was “Mr. Cohen, an attorney” who was just one of many employed by Trump. Except he didn’t really work for Trump; he was just given an occasional task. And Trump wouldn’t recommend him because he was a terrible lawyer. And … then he was “a rat” who “broke” and deserved much more time in prison than he received.
On Thursday, Trump said that McGahn “may have been confused” when he talked to Mueller’s team about Trump’s efforts to end the investigation. “The story on that very simply, number one, I was never going to fire Mueller,” said Trump. “I never suggested firing Mueller.”
Stephanopoulos attempted to insert a comment about McGahn’s testimony, but Trump didn’t let him finish. “I don’t care what he says,” Trump snapped. “It doesn’t matter.” After Trump completed his tirade, Stephanopoulos tried again, asking what incentive McGahn would have had to lie under oath. “Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer,” said Trump.
It seems like Don McGahn is now somewhere between stage “Mr. Cohen is an attorney who worked for many clients” and “Michael Cohen is a rat.” Shading toward rat.
Trump had another reason that McGahn might have been telling the special counsel that Trump was out to get the special counsel. “Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen—including you, including the media—that Robert Mueller was conflicted,” said Trump. “Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”
Which seems a lot like saying that McGahn may have believed that Trump was trying to end the investigation, because Trump kept saying he wanted to end the investigation. But then, McGahn is the one who was “confused.”
There was one subject about which Trump certainly was not confused: the difference between lying to investigators and lying to the public.
Stephanopoulos: If you answer these questions to me now, why not answer them to Robert Mueller under oath?
Trump: Because they were looking to get us for lies or slight misstatements. I looked at what happened to people, and it was very unfair. Very, very unfair. Very unfair.
So long as there are no consequences for lying, Trump is happy to talk. Talk, talk, talk. But the possibility of going to jail just for lying? Very, very, very unfair.
It’s too bad that Trump didn’t understand that Mueller was never going to indict him no matter what he did. Lying his head off to the special counsel’s office and insulting Mueller in person would have been like a slice of good chocolate cake.
In the meantime, Don McGahn, who Trump says lied to the FBI and special counsel to make himself “look like a good lawyer,” is still refusing to obey a congressional subpoena because he was told to do so by Trump. Sticking by Trump at this point is likely to end up generating a healthy fine, at a minimum, and the only thing McGahn is going to get from Trump is more insults. Maybe he really is confused.