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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."

Go deeper

The week the Trump show ended

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Donald Trump was eclipsed in media attention last week by President Biden for the first time since Trump took office, according to viewership data on the internet, on social media and on cable news.

Why it matters: After Trump crowded out nearly every other news figure and topic for five years, momentum of the new administration took hold last week and the former president retreated, partly by choice and partly by being forced off the big platforms.

Pay TV's bleak post-pandemic outlook

Data: eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the Pay-TV industry, and with the near-term future of live sports in question, there are no signs of it getting better in 2021.

Why it matters: The fraught Pay-TV landscape is forcing some smaller, niche cable channels out of business altogether.

1 hour ago - World

Biden sets his sights on China

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images  

The new administration's first few moves and statements on China suggest that President Biden may continue some of the Trump era's most assertive policies.

Why it matters: China's severe domestic repression, its dramatic rise as a technological superpower, and its increasingly aggressive actions around the globe mean that the world expects the American president to take action.