Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday said he doesn’t care if President Donald Trump told then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller — the Mueller investigation is over.
“It’s all theater — it doesn’t matter,” the South Carolina Republican told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan. “I don’t care what he said to Don McGahn — it’s what he did. The president never obstructed.”
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including President Trump’s comments about willingness to accept foreign opposition research, the status of election security legislation, candidate lineups for the upcoming Democratic presidential debates and the politics of Democratic socialism.
(12:18)AND NBC’S PETER ALEXANDER ADDING THIS REPORTING TO OURADDING THIS REPORTING TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THIS NOW WAR OFUNDERSTANDING OF THIS NOW WAR OF WORDS TODAY BETWEEN DON McGHANWORDS TODAY BETWEEN DON McGHAN AND DONALD TRUMP.AND DONALD TRUMP. PETER’S REPORTING THAT A PERSONPETER’S REPORTING THAT A PERSON CLOSE TO FORMER WHITE HOUSECLOSE TO FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL DON McGHAN IS DISMISSINGCOUNSEL DON McGHAN IS DISMISSING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S COMMENTS PRESIDENT TRUMP’S COMMENTS TO ABC NEWS WHERE HE DISPUTES McGAHN’S TESTIMONY SAYING,QUOTE, IT’S NOT FANTASY LAND. SO WE HAVE FANTASY LAND, WE HAVESO WE HAVE FANTASY LAND, WE HAVE THE TOOTH FAIRY.THE TOOTH FAIRY. McGAHN PUSHING BACK MORE THAN HEMcGAHN PUSHING BACK MORE THAN HE DID THE FIRST COUPLE ROUNDS OFDID THE FIRST COUPLE ROUNDS OF SMEARS AGAINST McGAHN.SMEARS AGAINST McGAHN. DO YOU THINK McGAHN IS SOMEONEDO YOU THINK McGAHN IS SOMEONE WHO MIGHT EVENTUALLY GET
WHO MIGHT EVENTUALLY GET BATTERED ENOUGH TO TESTIFY?BATTERED ENOUGH TO TESTIFY? >> I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE SENSE>> I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE SENSE IN PUBLICLY ATTACKING DONIN PUBLICLY ATTACKING DON McGHAN.McGHAN. I — I CAN’T FATHOM IT.I — I CAN’T FATHOM IT. I REALLY CAN’T FATHOM IT.I REALLY CAN’T FATHOM IT. >> EXPLAIN THAT.>> EXPLAIN THAT. >> YOU’RE GOADING HIM INTO — I>> YOU’RE GOADING HIM INTO — I KNOW THIS IS JUST WHAT THEKNOW THIS IS JUST WHAT THE PRESIDENT DOES AND I DON’T THINK–PRESIDENT DOES AND I DON’T THINK HE’S THINKING ABOUT IT IN A
STRATEGIC FASHION —BECAUSE WHO SHOULD EXPECT A PRESIDENT TO THINKSTRATEGICALLY. >> I DON’T BELIEVE HE IS>> I DON’T BELIEVE HE IS THINKING STRATEGICALLY.THINKING STRATEGICALLY. BUT IS HE JUST TRYING TO GOADBUT IS HE JUST TRYING TO GOAD DON McGHAN INTO MAKING A PUBLICDON McGHAN INTO MAKING A PUBLIC STATEMENT?STATEMENT? I MEAN, IT’S KIND OF — AND NOWI MEAN, IT’S KIND OF — AND NOW WE’RE SEEING, AGAIN, I WONDER IFWE’RE SEEING, AGAIN, I WONDER IF IT’S THE SAME SOURCE, BUTIT’S THE SAME SOURCE, BUT SOURCES CLOSE TO McGAHN WE’RESOURCES CLOSE TO McGAHN WE’RE SEEING THESE VERY SIMILARSEEING THESE VERY SIMILAR STATEMENTS.STATEMENTS. I DON’T KNOW.I DON’T KNOW. I MEAN, I DON’T THINK THISI MEAN, I DON’T THINK THIS CHANGES THE CALCULUS IN THECHANGES THE CALCULUS IN THE SHORT-TERM ABOUT WHETHER HESHORT-TERM ABOUT WHETHER HE TESTIFIES OR NOT, BUT I DON’TTESTIFIES OR NOT, BUT I DON’T SEE THE SENSE IN IT.SEE THE SENSE IN IT. >> ASHLEY PARKER?>> ASHLEY PARKER? >> AGAIN IT MAKES NO SENSE.>> AGAIN IT MAKES NO SENSE. THE PRESIDENT IS GETTINGTHE PRESIDENT IS GETTING DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO ALMOSTDANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO ALMOST PUSHING FOR AN OUTCOME THAT HEPUSHING FOR AN OUTCOME THAT HE DOESN’T WANT AND WOULDN’TDOESN’T WANT AND WOULDN’T BENEFIT HIM.BENEFIT HIM. YOU HAVE DON McGHAN WHO ISYOU HAVE DON McGHAN WHO IS SOMEONE BASED ON THE MUELLER
SOMEONE BASED ON THE MUELLER REPORT AND EVERYTHING WE
REPORT AND EVERYTHING WE UNDERSTAND, REPEATEDLY ACTUALLY
UNDERSTAND, REPEATEDLY ACTUALLY SAVED THE PRESIDENT FROM
SAVED THE PRESIDENT FROM HIMSELF.HIMSELF. AND THE PRESIDENT MAY NOT HAVEAND THE PRESIDENT MAY NOT HAVE LIKED IT IN THOSE MOMENTS AND,LIKED IT IN THOSE MOMENTS AND, IN FACT, HE DIDN’T AT THE TIMEIN FACT, HE DIDN’T AT THE TIME WE HEARD A LOT ABOUT CLASHESWE HEARD A LOT ABOUT CLASHES WITH DON McGHAN AND HE DIDN’TWITH DON McGHAN AND HE DIDN’T LIKE DON McGHAN BECAUSE DONLIKE DON McGHAN BECAUSE DON McGHAN WOULD STAND UP TO HIM ANDMcGHAN WOULD STAND UP TO HIM AND GIVE HIM THE LAWYER’S POINT OFGIVE HIM THE LAWYER’S POINT OF VIEW, IT TURNS OUT IN HINDSIGHTVIEW, IT TURNS OUT IN HINDSIGHT THE PRESIDENT IS LUCKY DONTHE PRESIDENT IS LUCKY DON McGHAN WAS THERE PLAYING THATMcGHAN WAS THERE PLAYING THAT ROLE.ROLE. DON McGHAN ONLY TESTIFIED FORDON McGHAN ONLY TESTIFIED FOR THOSE 30 HOURS YOU MENTIONEDTHOSE 30 HOURS YOU MENTIONED BECAUSE HE WAS ABIDING BY — YOUBECAUSE HE WAS ABIDING BY — YOU CAN DISAGREE WITH IF IT’S GOODCAN DISAGREE WITH IF IT’S GOOD OR BAD STRATEGY, HE WAS ABIDINGOR BAD STRATEGY, HE WAS ABIDING BY A STRATEGY COOKED UP BY THEBY A STRATEGY COOKED UP BY THE PRESIDENT’S LAWYERS AT THE TIME,PRESIDENT’S LAWYERS AT THE TIME, AND NOW HE’S RISKING POSSIBLEAND NOW HE’S RISKING POSSIBLE CON TEMPT TO DEFY ACON TEMPT TO DEFY A CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENA.CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENA. HE’S NOT LIKE THESE DEMOCRATS,HE’S NOT LIKE THESE DEMOCRATS, HE’S NOT THE PERSON YOU WANT TOHE’S NOT THE PERSON YOU WANT TO GOAD INTO FINALLY SAYING I’VE
GOAD INTO FINALLY SAYING I’VE HAD ENOUGH.
HAD ENOUGH. THAT’S NOT A SAVVY STRATEGY.THAT’S NOT A SAVVY STRATEGY. >>> HE’S ALSO ONE OF THESE SORT>>> HE’S ALSO ONE OF THESE SORT OF FIGURES IN TRUMP LAND WITHOF FIGURES IN TRUMP LAND WITH ULTIMATE CREDIBILITY.ULTIMATE CREDIBILITY. HE’S NOT A LIBERAL’S FANTASY,HE’S NOT A LIBERAL’S FANTASY, NOT A WHISTLE BLOWER, HE STANDSNOT A WHISTLE BLOWER, HE STANDS BEHIND THE SUPREME COURT PICKS.BEHIND THE SUPREME COURT PICKS. HIS LEGACY IS THIS VAST BODY OFHIS LEGACY IS THIS VAST BODY OF JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS.JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS. HIS CLOSE ALLY IN THE SENATE ISHIS CLOSE ALLY IN THE SENATE IS MITCH McCONNELL.
MITCH McCONNELL. HE’S NOT GOING TO BE THISHE’S NOT GOING TO BE THIS SATISFYING WITNESS FOR THE LEFTSATISFYING WITNESS FOR THE LEFT AND HE’S NOT, IT WOULD APPEAR,AND HE’S NOT, IT WOULD APPEAR, ANYMORE FEEL BEHOLDEN PERSONALLYANYMORE FEEL BEHOLDEN PERSONALLY TO THE WHITE HOUSE.TO THE WHITE HOUSE. HE IS THE ULTIMATE TRUTH TELLER,HE IS THE ULTIMATE TRUTH TELLER, AND IF HE SIMPLY TESTIFIES TOAND IF HE SIMPLY TESTIFIES TO WHAT IS IN THE MUELLER REPORT ONWHAT IS IN THE MUELLER REPORT ON TELEVISION, IN FRONT OF CAMERAS,TELEVISION, IN FRONT OF CAMERAS, IT WOULD BE DEVASTATING TO THISIT WOULD BE DEVASTATING TO THIS PRESIDENT.PRESIDENT. >> IT WOULD BE DEVASTATING BUT I>> IT WOULD BE DEVASTATING BUT I THINK ALL THE THINGS YOU JUSTTHINK ALL THE THINGS YOU JUST MENTIONED ARE THE REASONS WHYMENTIONED ARE THE REASONS WHY DON McGHAN IS NOT TESTIFYING.DON McGHAN IS NOT TESTIFYING. THE PRESIDENT KEEPS ATTACKINGTHE PRESIDENT KEEPS ATTACKING HIM BECAUSE OF THE LAST THREE ORHIM BECAUSE OF THE LAST THREE OR SO YEARS, THE PRESIDENT HASSO YEARS, THE PRESIDENT HAS LEARNED ABOUT THE REPUBLICANLEARNED ABOUT THE REPUBLICAN ESTABLISHMENT HE CAN BEAT THEMESTABLISHMENT HE CAN BEAT THEM UP, ATTACK THEM, AND THEY’LLUP, ATTACK THEM, AND THEY’LL CAVE EVERY TIME.CAVE EVERY TIME. FROM EVERYTHING YOU HEAR, DONFROM EVERYTHING YOU HEAR, DON McGHAN AND TRUMP HATE EACHMcGHAN AND TRUMP HATE EACH OTHER.OTHER. >> ISN’T HIS INTEGRITY ON THE>> ISN’T HIS INTEGRITY ON THE LINE, HIS REPUTATION, AND HASN’TLINE, HIS REPUTATION, AND HASN’T HE TESTIFIED IN THE MUELLERHE TESTIFIED IN THE MUELLER REPORT TO THE TRUTH?REPORT TO THE TRUTH? >> THE PLACE HE CARES ABOUT HIS>> THE PLACE HE CARES ABOUT HIS REPUTATION IS WITH MITCH
REPUTATION IS WITH MITCH McCONNELL, THE REPUBLICANMcCONNELL, THE REPUBLICAN ESTABLISHMENT AND NONE OF THOSE
ESTABLISHMENT AND NONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WANT TO SEE HIM BRING
PEOPLE WANT TO SEE HIM BRING DONALD TRUMP DONE.DONALD TRUMP DONE. >> HE WOULD BE THE RARE FIGURE>> HE WOULD BE THE RARE FIGURE BECAUSE HE HAS THOSE ALLIES WHOBECAUSE HE HAS THOSE ALLIES WHO COULD SUSTAIN TELLING A FEWCOULD SUSTAIN TELLING A FEW MINUTES OF TRUTH OF THE GARBAGEMINUTES OF TRUTH OF THE GARBAGE THAT WENT ON IN THE WEST WING.THAT WENT ON IN THE WEST WING. HE ASKED TO WRITE A FOE ANYHE ASKED TO WRITE A FOE ANY LETTER.LETTER. >> HE MIGHT OR HE MIGHT BE AN>> HE MIGHT OR HE MIGHT BE AN OUTCAST IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTYOUTCAST IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO JUSTIN
LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO JUSTIN AMASH WHEN HE STOOD UP AND TOLDAMASH WHEN HE STOOD UP AND TOLD THE TRUTH.THE TRUTH. HIS DAYS AS A HERO OF THEHIS DAYS AS A HERO OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY ARE PROBABLYREPUBLICAN PARTY ARE PROBABLY OVER.OVER. >> I WANT TO ASK ALL OF YOU
President Trump on Thursday said in a tweet that he had never asked then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, directly contradicting a detailed account in Mr. Mueller’s report.
“As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself.”
The special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election said that Mr. Trump “called McGahn and directed him to have the Special Counsel removed.” The report, which the Justice Department released last week, relied on interviews that Mr. McGahn gave Mr. Mueller’s team in March 2018, after which Mr. Mueller concluded that “McGahn is a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.”
Mr. Mueller also wrote the president “made clear” to his chief of staff and chief strategist at the time—Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, respectively—that he was considering firing the special counsel. Both men spoke to the special counsel’s investigators. Mr. Trump declined to answer questions about obstruction of justice and declined to sit for an interview with Mr. Mueller.
Mr. Trump has long denied reports that he sought to have Mr. McGahn fire Mr. Mueller, telling reporters in January 2018 that it was “fake news.” He subsequently asked his White House counsel to publicly deny the reports, which Mr. McGahn refused to do, according to the Mueller report. The special counsel investigated that episode, among others, in seeking to determine whether the president obstructed justice.
In the week since the 448-page report was released to the public, Mr. Trump has gone from saying it exonerates him to attacking some findings as “total bullshit.” His comments Thursday marked his first effort to contradict a key part of the report that raised the question of obstruction.
.. After reports surfaced in January 2018 of Mr. Trump’s directive to Mr. McGahn, Mr. Trump publicly denied the conversation and sought to have his White House counsel do the same. According to the Mueller report, Mr. Trump sought to have aides including his personal lawyer, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and former staff secretary Rob Porter ask Mr. McGahn to dispute the reports, at one point threatening to fire Mr. McGahn, according to Mr. Porter’s account to investigators.
In another instance recounted in the Mueller report, Mr. McGahn and the president met face-to-face in February 2018, where Mr. Trump asked him: “Did I say the word fire?” Mr. McGahn told the president that he had understood the conversation as “Call Rod. There are conflicts. Mueller has to go.” Mr. Trump then demanded to know why Mr. McGahn kept notes, saying, “I never had a lawyer who took notes.”
Advisers described the president’s response to the report in recent days as more impulsive than strategic, saying he was driven by media coverage of the report and its fallout rather than any plan to undermine the investigation. “He’s going to talk about it if it’s current and discussed and out there,” Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, said in an interview. “He’s not if it’s not.”
Meanwhile, some of the president’s advisers have opted for a more muted response to the report. Mr. Trump’s lawyers had prepared a 30-page counter-report to Mr. Mueller’s document—whittled down from 150 pages originally—that they planned to release the day the report came out. One week later, they haven’t yet released it.