Aug 18, 2018

White House counsel Don McGahn cooperating "extensively" with Mueller

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Robert Mueller's team has been working "extensively" with White House counsel Don McGahn, the New York Times reports as he shares "detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart" of the special counsel's investigation.

Why it matters: It's unusual for a lawyer to be so open with investigators probing matters regarding his client, the Times' Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt point out. Trump's legal team has "explained that they believe their client had nothing to hide and that they could bring the investigation to an end quickly." McGahn has met with Mueller's team for at least three voluntary interviews totaling 30 hours over nine months, the NYT reports.

The big picture: McGahn and his lawyer, William Burck, "devised their own strategy" to cooperate with Mueller as a safe-guard, the Times reports. Because Trump was "so willing" to let McGahn speak with Mueller's team, they feared that Trump "was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction."

  • Full cooperation with Mueller was seen as "the only choice he had to protect himself."
  • The White House did not exert attorney-client privilege — which would have allowed the president to withhold some information — meaning that McGahn has had to answer Mueller's questions in full.

McGahn and Burck met with Mueller's team for the first time in November. Per the Times, McGahn "was a fruitful witness" because of his involvement in so many events being questioned by the special counsel.

  • He told the special counsel of Trump's "mind-set" in the days leading up to his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
  • He spoke to them about the White House's handling of the firing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
  • He also told Mueller's team about Trump's relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he "tried to get him to assert control over the investigation."

A deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, Solomon Wisenburg, told the Times: "A prosecutor would kill for that. ... [I]t would have been phenomenally helpful to us. It would have been like have the keys to the kingdom."

The president responded to the report claiming the White House "readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history."

Go deeper

Scoop: Top NSC official reassigned to Energy Department amid "Anonymous" fallout

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates will be reassigned as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, the National Security Council said Thursday — and a senior White House official said that the administration "rejects" the rumors that she is "Anonymous."

Why it matters: Coates has battled claims that she is the still-unknown Trump administration official that penned a New York Times op-ed and book critical of President Trump.

The Fed may be setting the table for 2020 rate cuts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Fed looks to be laying the groundwork to lower U.S. interest rates this year, just as they did in April 2019 before cutting rates in July, September and October.

Why it matters: A Fed rate cut makes taking on debt more attractive for U.S. consumers and businesses, helping to juice the economy, but also puts the central bank in a weaker position to fight off a potential recession.

Morgan Stanley to buy E*Trade in a $13 billion deal

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Morgan Stanley is planning to buy E*Trade Financial Corp. in a $13 billion all-stock deal, the Wall Street Journal reports, with plans to acquire the company known for helping everyday Americans manage their money.

Why it matters: The deal, which would be the largest by a major American bank since the financial crisis, signals Morgan Stanley‘s desire to bulk up in wealth management.