In the pantheon of American patriots who sacrificed position to preserve the republic and avoid a constitutional crisis, how would you rank former White House counsel Don McGahn?
Is he worthy of adulation for thwarting the worst impulses of a petty president? Should we laud him for ignoring the rants of Donald Trump, the commands of a megalomaniac, the wanton dictates of a wannabe autocrat? For surely on more than one occasion, according to his own testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller, McGhan saved Trump’s presidency by not executing his orders.
So where do you stand on McGhan? Patriot or enabler of tyranny for keeping Trump in the White House?
Before you respond, here’s a thought to muddle your thinking: Along with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, McGhan is responsible for a decades’ long turn to the right in our federal judiciary. He managed the selections and confirmations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and dozens of lower court judges appointed for life.
Now what do you say? Is McGhan to be praised or reviled? Trump has him tops on his most current “s— list” because he has revealed the nakedness of Trump’s intellect and disdain for the Constitution. He spilled the beans—on the record—on the dysfunction in the Oval Office. He corroborated previously reported stories, based on sources, that Trump’s aides ignored his directives and assiduously worked to keep him from violating the law or corroding the government.
Naturally, the denier-in-chief rejected the idea that anyone stifled his impulses, but testimony under oath to the contrary is difficult to rebut, especially since it came from several officials.
Yet, there are those judges McGhan put on the bench. Would America be better off if McGhan had resigned rather than helped Trump stay in office?
Probably not. Because Mike Pence as a replacement president would have nominated those same judges, if not more conservative jurists. Liberal values were screwed no matter who served as president or counsel to the president as long as Republicans held a majority in the Senate.
Ideology aside, it may be argued McGhan acted in the best interests of the nation. He forestalled a constitutional crisis. It will be interesting to observe how he reacts and responds to the subpoena Congress just extended to him.
Attorney General William Barr, on the other hand, has openly displayed his bias. Rather than be the people’s attorney, Barr has shown himself to be Trump’s best defense lawyer. His repeated use of Trump’s catch-phrase “no collusion” was an open acknowledgment that he was conspiring with Trump to undermine the findings of the Mueller report.
Collusion is not a legal term to be used in the context of the Mueller probe. Mueller found insufficient evidence to say there was a conspiracy with Russia to sway the election. He did not make a judgment on the question of obstruction of justice. Barr did, saying no obstruction occurred. But Mueller’s report provided numerous instances where Trump interfered with the investigation or its legitimacy.
An unbiased attorney general would have let Congress decide the matter. He would not have pre-judged the question. Unlike McGhan, Barr added fuel to the fire of possible impeachment and constitutional crisis.