Why Doesn’t McGahn Fight Back?

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee the second day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy on the court left by retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 05: White House Counsel Don McGahn (C) listens as Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (L) testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the second day of Kavanaugh's confirmat... WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 05: White House Counsel Don McGahn (C) listens as Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (L) testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the second day of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy on the court left by retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 14, 2019 11:27 am
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Someone asked me this morning how it is that Don McGahn still refuses to testify to Congress even after Donald Trump is literally accusing him of committing a felony by lying under oath in his testimony to the Special Counsel’s Office. One point to note here: no one thinks that the White House can bind McGahn. The White House can arguably give him a rationale, legal reason to refuse to testify. But he’s definitely free to do what he wants. So why is he still doing Trump’s bidding?

The answer is as clear as it is depressing.

First, everyone knows that Trump is lying. Everyone. So there’s no sense that McGahn needs to vindicate his professional reputation by making clear or insisting that his testimony was truthful. There’s no downside because everyone knows Trump is lying.

Second, McGahn is a professional Republican. He’s not a big time lawyer at a white shoe law firm who often works for Republicans or happened to work for Trump. He’s a professional Republican campaign lawyer at the top of his field. His business and career is working for the Republican party. At some level he probably just doesn’t want to testify because as mad as he may be at Trump he still supports what Trump’s doing politically. But the bigger issue is that he probably fears that if he cooperated with House investigators his career would be over. And he’s probably right.

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