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Ex-Trump Lawyer Says He Felt 'Trapped' While in the White House

People logo People 4 days ago Sean Neumann
Don McGahn wearing a suit and tie: Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Don McGahn © Provided by People Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Don McGahn

A former White House lawyer told Congress earlier this month he felt "trapped" by former President Donald Trump's repeated requests to remove special counsel Robert Mueller from leading an investigation into the 2016 Trump's campaign's relationship with Russia.

"After I got off the phone with the president, how did I feel? Oof. Frustrated, perturbed, trapped. Many emotions," ex-White House counsel Don McGahn told a Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, in June 4 testimony that was released Wednesday.

McGahn, 52, told lawmakers he "felt trapped, because the president had the same conversation with me repeatedly, and I thought I conveyed my views and offered my advice, and we were still having the same conversation."

McGahn was the legal counsel for Trump's 2016 campaign before joining him as a lawyer at the White House. He resigned in October 2018.

Democratic lawmakers have pushed for years for investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any ties to Trump - while Trump, 74, has repeatedly denounced this as a "witch hunt" and has claimed innocence.

The former president routinely tweeted attacks on the investigation and Mueller.

Mueller, 76, spent two years investigating the matter before saying in March 2019 that his team did not find that Trump colluded with the Russian government, although the report did "not exonerate" the former president on the question of whether Trump tried to obstruct Mueller himself.

The report found that "the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion" to try and help Trump and that his campaign officials were "receptive" to offers to help the president's first election bid.

Don McGahn wearing a suit and tie: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Don McGahn © Provided by People Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Don McGahn Don McGahn wearing a suit and tie: Chip Somodevilla/Getty From left: Donald Trump and Don McGahn © Provided by People Chip Somodevilla/Getty From left: Donald Trump and Don McGahn

The Mueller report also found at least 10 instances in which Trump may have attempted to obstruct the U.S. Justice Department's investigation, though Mueller declined to make a determination on the matter, citing legal issues because Trump was a sitting president.

McGahn told lawmakers in the newly released testimony that Trump was repeatedly "urging" him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and tell him that Mueller "had conflicts" of interest, in an effort to remove Mueller from leading the Russia investigation.

McGahn testified that he refused to make the call because he did not think it was a good idea to let the situation "spiral out of control" for the president, who was his client, and worried the push to oust Mueller would take the situation to "a point of no return."

"If the acting attorney general received what he thought was a direction from the counsel to the president to remove a special counsel, he would either have to remove the special counsel or resign," McGahn said.

Democrats have sought McGahn's testimony two years. 

The push had previously been blocked by Trump when he was still president, according to NPR, who reported that the Judiciary Committee and McGahn's own legal team finally came to an agreement last month for him to testify behind closed doors.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the committee's chairman, said McGahn provided "new information" and insight into Trump's "increasingly out of control behavior" as president.

"All told, Mr. McGahn's testimony gives us a fresh look at how dangerously close President Trump brought us to, in Mr. McGahn's words, the 'point of no return,' " Nadler said.

A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment Thursday.

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