I'm going to present an off-the-wall theory -- so off-the-wall that I can't quite bring myself to believe it. But that's why you come here, isn't it? This is a place where we sometimes dare to go off the wall, even at the risk of meeting Humpty's fate.
I draw your attention to the recent NYT story about the aborted attempt to fire Mueller last June. The report refers to two unnamed sources: One is currently within the White House and one is a former high-level White House official. Many people have presumed that the missing names are White House Counsel Don McGahn and the ever-popular Steve Bannon.
The presumption is that both are now working with Mueller, or trying to curry favor with Mueller, or something of that sort. As Bill Palmer
It’s been fairly clear for months, and crystal clear for weeks, that White House Counsel Don McGahn has – formally or informally – flipped on Donald Trump. Everyone seems to know it but Trump, which is why McGahn still has his White House job.
But what if there's another way to look at the matter? Consider what might have happened if the NYT had not
published that story.
Mueller will probably interview Trump, probably under oath. During that interview, someone on Mueller's team might well ask Trump: "Did you ever make plans to fire Bob Mueller?" (I'm not claiming that the question will be phrased precisely that way.)
If the NYT had never published that story, then Trump's response would have been along these lines: "No. Never wanted to fire Mueller. Just so you know, there was never any idea about firing Mueller. Believe me."
How do we know that Trump would have offered a blanket denial? Because he has offered a blanket denial on previous occasions.
That denial was, of course, a lie. But what of it? Lying to the press carries no consequences for this president.
Lying under oath
is a very different matter. Thanks to the publication of that NYT story, Trump now knows that he can't get away with telling this particular fib.
If McGahn and Bannon really are the sources for that NYT story, then they may have just prevented Trump from falling into a perjury trap.
Maybe I'm wrong about this. As I said, I'm not convinced by my own theory. Still...slosh it around it in your skull for a bit; the idea may grow on you.
Most have forgotten McGahn's behavior in the strange case of Michael Flynn
Flynn quit after news reports revealed that Yates had warned McGahn in late January 2017 that Flynn had misled White House officials about details of his conversations with the Kremlin's US ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Yates explained that she met with McGahn in person on January 26, 2017, to tell him that she had information that statements by Vice President Mike Pence, based on his conversations with Flynn, were false, and Flynn was susceptible of being "essentially blackmailed by the Russians."
McGahn conducted "exhaustive and extensive questioning of Flynn," according to Spicer, and McGahn concluded that Flynn had not violated the law.
Yates' testimony immediately renewed questions about McGahn's handling of the situation: What exactly did he do with the information; did he ever sift through the evidence the Justice Department offered to show him to support the conclusion that Flynn had been compromised; who else was told of Yates' warning and when, and finally, what deliberation took place that ultimately allowed Flynn to keep his job for 18 days after Yates' revelation?
CNN reported in December that McGahn told Trump in January 2017 he believed Flynn had misled the FBI, lied to Pence and should be fired, according to a source familiar with the matter.
McGahn later tried to dissuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the investigation into any coordination between Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Trump campaign associates, according to a source close to Sessions.
McGahn was a general counsel for the Trump campaign, a counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee and the FEC Chairman
from 2008 to 2013.
McGahn, a Republican who had served on the FEC since 2008, clashed frequently with Democrats as he helped push a conservative interpretation of campaign-finance laws and persistent skepticism about government oversight of political campaigns.
McGahn served on the FEC at a time of rapid change in campaign-finance law. The past several years have given rise to an explosion of outside spending, from 501(c)(4) organizations to super PACs. The Supreme Court also struck down several provisions of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as McCain-Feingold, forcing the FEC to rewrite some of its rules.
McGahn led a bloc of three Republicans who almost always voted together. Campaign-finance reform advocates and editorial boards were often critical of what they characterized as McGahn’s efforts to chip away at election rules and regulations.
We keep hearing that McGahn's loyalty goes not to Trump but to the institution of the presidency. Maybe