Ex-White House counsel McGahn 'perturbed' by Trump effort to halt Russia probe: Transcript

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Former White House lawyer Don McGahn told congressional investigators that he was “perturbed”by Donald Trump’s efforts to shut down the US Special Counsel investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to a transcript made public on Wednesday (June 9).

McGahn testified during a closed-door June 4 interview that he felt “trapped” after a June 2017 phone call in which the then-president asked him to pressure a Justice Department official to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“After I got off the phone with the President, how did I feel? Oof. Frustrated, perturbed, trapped,” McGahn told House of Representatives investigators. “Many emotions.” The transcript was released by the House Judiciary Committee.

McGahn’s testimony last week marked the end of a two-year legal standoff between the House and the Justice Department over whether executive branch officials can be forced to testify to Congress.

The testimony provided no new revelations about Trump’s efforts to halt the Mueller investigation. An agreement between House lawyers and the Justice Department stipulated that McGahn’s deposition would be limited to publicly available information contained in Mueller’s report.

McGahn, who left his post in late 2018, was a key witness in Mueller’s report on Russian interference in 2016 that saw Republican Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

McGahn told Mueller’s team that Trump repeatedly instructed him to have the special counsel ousted and then told him to deny having been so instructed when word of the action emerged in news reports. McGahn did not carry out either instruction.

After sitting for interviews with Mueller’s team, McGahn in May 2019 declined to testify before a congressional panel investigating Trump’s conduct.

The Justice Department at the time had advised McGahn to defy the subpoena, one of a number of refusals by Trump’s administration as it sought to block congressional inquiries into his conduct.