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Top White House officials and sources close to White House counsel Don McGahn tell Axios that McGahn will step down this fall — after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, or after the midterms. The president later confirmed Axios' reporting in a tweet.

The big picture: This potentially puts a successor in charge of fielding a blizzard of requests or subpoenas for documents and testimony if Democrats win control of the House in the midterms. And if the White House winds up fighting special counsel Robert Mueller, an epic constitutional fight could lie ahead.

  • We're told that Trump has not formalized a successor.
  • But McGahn has told a confidant he would like his successor to be Emmet Flood, a Clinton administration alumnus who joined the White House in May to deal with the Russia probe.
  • Flood also served for two years during George W. Bush’s second term as his top lawyer handling congressional investigators. 

A source familiar with Flood's thinking said: “The reason he can represent both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump is because he thinks these investigators come and basically put a target on their backs, trying to overturn every aspect of their lives searching for a crime."

  • "He feels that is a judicial and constitutional hazard."

Three senior administration officials tell us they hope Flood is the pick:

  • He’s trusted and respected inside the White House.
  • Most importantly, sources familiar with their interactions say Flood has — as well as any lawyer can — figured out how to talk to Trump.
  • The president focuses his attention when Flood talks to him: Trump reacts to the authority Flood carries as a heavyweight lawyer handling the topic that potentially poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency.

The timing for a McGahn departure is right for both sides, the officials say:

  • McGahn, whom some Trump allies fear coughed up too much information during his extensive cooperation with Mueller’s team, would leave on a high note, after the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, and the expected confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
  • McGahn ran point on Trump's record run of conservative judicial selections, which has endeared Trump not only to his base but also to Republicans skeptical of his presidency.
  • In Flood, Trump would get a White House counsel with impeachment chops from the Clinton years, and little internal baggage.
  • McGahn has told a confidant that he doesn't expect to leave Trumpworld entirely after he leaves the White House. He privately said he expects to continue to be of assistance to the president through the re-election campaign.

Be smart: McGahn has had, at times, a strained relationship with the president.

  • A defender of McGahn's, who has been an uncomfortable bystander while the president has torn shreds off of McGahn, told Axios that McGahn did the best he could under very trying circumstances, and often had to bat back unreasonable and legally problematic requests.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily morning newsletter, Axios AM. 

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement on Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.