Trump says he’s not worried about what White House counsel told prosecutors

Laura King
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that he’s unconcerned by reports that the White House counsel, Don McGahn, has cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion and obstruction of justice.

The president said on Twitter that McGahn was not a “rat.”

“I have nothing to hide,” Trump said.

The president’s latest series of disparaging Twitter posts came at what may be a pivotal point in the investigation into Russia’s election interference, possible Trump campaign complicity and any obstruction of justice.

The New York Times reported Saturday that McGahn had voluntarily spent 30 hours in interviews with Mueller’s team, acting in part on fears that Trump would try to shift the blame to him for any wrongdoing.

Trump, spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf resort, said he was not worried about whatever McGahn had told investigators, adding he had authorized his aides’ cooperation with the special counsel. The New York Times report noted that McGahn knew about many events central to the possible obstruction of justice case being built by Mueller’s team.

Trump, who has a habit of making unguarded references while seeking to bolster a contrary argument, voiced confidence that McGahn was not a “John Dean type of ‘RAT,’” referring to the Watergate-era White House lawyer whose testimony helped bring down President Richard Nixon. Although the substance of McGahn’s statements to Mueller is not publicly known, Dean went on Twitter Saturday to praise the White House counsel for “doing right.”

Manafort and more: Meanwhile, a parallel Mueller-related drama was playing itself out. A federal jury was set Monday to resume deliberations in the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who is on trial on tax evasion and bank fraud charges.

Trump, who in recent months has issued presidential pardons to some political supporters, last week took the highly unusual step of publicly opining about the case while the jury, which is not sequestered, was still out. The president said Manafort had been treated badly and was a “very good person.”

For the past week, the White House has also been confronted with a steady drip of allegations by fired presidential aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, who became a reality-show star under Trump’s tutelage. She is promoting a book billed as a tell-all about her months in the White House, with some elements of her story backed by surreptitiously made recordings. On Sunday, she said on MSNBC that Trump is trying to start a “race war.”

Clearances: In addition, the president has prompted an outcry by stripping former CIA Director John Brennan, an outspoken critic, of his security clearance, with the White House indicating more such revocations are in the works. Dozens of retired intelligence professionals, including prominent former agency chiefs, have called the president’s move against Brennan an act of petty vengeance motivated by an improper desire to muzzle critics.

National security adviser John Bolton, defending the decision to nullify Brennan’s security clearance, suggested the former CIA director’s denunciations of Trump were prompted by his knowledge of classified matters — implying, perhaps inadvertently, that such secret documentation of wrongdoing exists.

“A number of people have commented that (Brennan) couldn’t be in the position he’s in, of criticizing President Trump and his so-called collusion with Russia, unless he did use classified information,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But Bolton said he didn’t know “the specifics” and did not offer any proof that Brennan had improperly cited classified information, even indirectly.

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in a somewhat puzzling interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “truth isn’t truth.”

About the possibility of Trump submitting to an interview with prosecutors, Giuliana said: “I’m not going to be rushed into having him testify so he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because that’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth.”

“Truth is truth,” Chuck Todd, the “Meet the Press” moderator, replied.

“No, it isn’t,” Giuliani responded. “Truth isn’t truth.”

McCarthy era: Trump, not for the first time, invoked the McCarthy era in his Sunday posts, echoing his contention that the Mueller investigation is a witch hunt akin to the late Wisconsin’s senator’s crusade against supposed Communist sympathizers in the U.S. government in the 1950s.

“Mueller and his gang … make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby!” the president wrote.

Some national security figures also pointed to the McCarthy precedent — but in connection with the rationale employed by Trump to revoke security clearances of former intelligence officials who voice dissent.

Retired Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Trump’s clearance revocations were reminiscent of the McCarthy era and of Nixon’s famous “enemies list.” Former senior officials retain their security clearances so they can be consulted for advice in the event of a national emergency or international crisis.

Mullen, on “Fox News Sunday,” faulted Brennan for the overtly political tone of some of his remarks, but nonetheless said retaliation for such speech “historically has proven incredibly problematic for the country.”

“I am concerned about the whole issue of free speech, and as long as (Brennan) is not revealing classified information that he shouldn’t, I certainly think he has the right to speak,” Mullen said.