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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."

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.