White House Counsel Don McGahn is leaving his post, US President Donald Trump has announced. — AFP
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that his daughter played no role in the abrupt departure of his top lawyer and pushed back at the notion of a White House in chaos, calling it “a smooth-running machine with changing parts”.
The announced departure of White House counsel Don McGahn, who has emerged as a key witness in the Russia probe shadowing his presidency, was the latest in a long string of firings and resignations to buffet Trump’s administration.
The New York Times reported that McGahn was not forewarned before Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter he would be leaving his post this fall.
The Times said Ivanka Trump had complained bitterly to her father after a report by the newspaper that claimed McGahn’s testimony to Special Counsel Robert Mueller had been far more extensive than the president or his lawyers knew.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Trump said Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, “had nothing to do with the so-called ‘pushing out’ of Don McGahn”.
“The Fake News Media has it, purposely, so wrong!” Trump tweeted.
“They love to portray chaos in the White House when they know that chaos doesn’t exist-just a ‘smooth running machine’ with changing parts!”
McGahn was a witness to several key episodes under scrutiny by Mueller, including Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey and his tensions with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from oversight of the probe.
Trump has said all his aides had been encouraged to be transparent with the Mueller probe – which he frequently denounces as rigged against him.
“The Rigged Russia Witch Hunt did not come into play, even a little bit, with respect to my decision on Don McGahn!” the president insisted on Thursday.
Later on Thursday, Trump branded the investigation “illegal” – despite the fact, his own Justice Department says the opposite.
“I view it as an illegal investigation,” he told Bloomberg News.
Trump cited unnamed “great scholars” who say that “there should never have been a special counsel”, according to the news agency.
The frequent departures of high-level staffers in Trump’s administration have created the impression of a temperamental leader dismissive of discordant voices.
With less than two years in office, Trump has gone through two National Security Advisers, a Secretary of State and a White House chief of staff to name just a few.
Former senior White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman released a tell-all book this month after her firing, which painted Trump as a racist and a liar with a “total lack of empathy”.
Trump responded to the book by the former contestant on his reality show The Apprentice, whose White House role was unclear, by calling her a “dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife”.
Such outbursts have put Trump’s closest aides in the delicate position of trying to explain his Twitter salvos.
White House press briefings, a daily tradition under previous presidents, have practically disappeared as the administration deals with the constant drip of revelations.
The latest? A New York Times story Thursday that claimed Trump sought to purchase all the “dirt” that the National Enquirer, a leading scandal sheet, had collected on him over the past decades.
The newspaper, quoting unidentified associates of Trump, said the plan was concocted with Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has implicated him in “hush payments” made before the 2016 election.
Cohen agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors this month that included an admission that he had made payments to silence two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump before he ran for the White House.
The Times said there was a plan to go even further – purchasing all of the information collected on Trump since the 1980s by the National Enquirer and its parent company American Media.
The Times said the scheme, however, was “never finalised” and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has sought to escape the oppressive environment of Washington by ratcheting up the frequency of campaign-style meetings which he clearly enjoys.
He is to fly to Evansville, Indiana, on Thursday for what he promised would be a “big crowd rally”.
“Will be a big night!” he tweeted. — AFP