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John Dowd Rips Trump-McGahn Report: 'NYT Nothing Burger'

Image: John Dowd Rips Trump-McGahn Report: 'NYT Nothing Burger'
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By    |   Friday, 05 January 2018 07:39 PM

President Donald Trump's personal attorney on Friday dismissed a report in The New York Times that the president instructed White House counsel Don McGahn to try to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions to remain in charge of the Russia investigation last year.

"Another NYT nothing burger," John Dowd told Politico in an email.

But some legal scholars told Politico that the Times report, published online late Thursday, provided insights into Trump's motives and intent — and could aid special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible obstruction of justice.

"Trump's motive will matter," said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney from eastern Michigan.

"If Trump wanted to keep Sessions in charge of the Russia investigation so that he could protect Trump, then trying to prevent him from complying with the DOJ recusal rules could provide a strong case for obstruction," she said.

McGahn was unsuccessful in his efforts, as Sessions recused himself from the probe last March. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who headed the investigation, in May.

Still, Robert Bauer, former White House counsel for President Barack Obama, said the Times story provided additional context to news reports last year about possible obstruction.

"The story adds interesting detail to a reported narrative already largely in place," Bauer told Politico. "It was clear that the president was enraged with Sessions for not recusing himself, and with Comey for at least a couple of reasons.

"Now that we know that [Michael] Flynn lied to the FBI about his December 2016 conversation with the Russian smbassador, but do not know what the president knew about the lie or when, this seems another critical question in evaluating the basis for an obstruction investigation arising out of the Comey firing."

Flynn, who was fired by President Trump from his job as national security adviser in February, pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI about his Moscow conversations.

However, others told Politico that they were wary of reading too much into the Times report.

Patrick Cotter, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said that McGahn lobbying Sessions "was highly inappropriate, foolish and contributes additional supportive evidence as to Trump's intent re: the Russia investigation.

"But it does not seem to me to rise to the level of a crime in and of itself."

Julie Myers Wood, a former deputy on Kenneth Starr's independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton, said she also found nothing wrong with McGahn's actions.

"It's certainly appropriate for the WH counsel to have factual discussions with the AG regarding his role and any potential reasons for recusal," she told Politico in an email.

"Lobbying on recusal issues may be unwise, but if done in good faith, does not constitute an attempt to obstruct."

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President Donald Trump's personal attorney on Friday dismissed a report in The New York Times that the president instructed White House counsel Don McGahn to try to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions to remain in charge of the Russia investigation last year.
john dowd, rips, donald trump, donald mcgahn report, new york times
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2018-39-05
Friday, 05 January 2018 07:39 PM
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