White House Counsel Don McGahn will step down from his role this fall, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday.
Trump added, “I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there’s no backstory on why McGahn is leaving.
“He’s worked for the president for a long time. He’s been ― they have a good relationship. There’s really not a lot to add here,” she told reporters shortly after Trump’s announcement.
McGahn, who joined Trump’s administration in January 2017, was reportedly interested in leaving his position and expressed interest that he be succeeded by D.C. lawyer Emmet Flood, Axios reported on Wednesday.
Flood joined the White House in May to assist with Trump’s defense during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He previously served as special counsel in the George W. Bush administration and represented President Bill Clinton during the impeachment proceedings.
The announcement of McGahn’s looming departure comes in the wake of reports earlier this month that he had provided Mueller with both damaging and favorable information on Trump as Mueller probes possible collusion by Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 election campaign, as well as if the president obstructed justice.
Before joining Trump’s administration, McGahn served as counsel to Trump’s presidential campaign. Prior to that, he was chairman of the Federal Election Commission.
His cooperation with Mueller was seen as a potential blow to Trump, with sources speaking to The New York Times suggesting that McGahn was willing to speak candidly out of fear that Trump was setting him up for blame in case of any possible obstruction charges.
Trump denied such claims, insisting that he asked McGahn to cooperate with Mueller and that any suspicions that he may have switched sides is “just the opposite.”
Nixon administration attorney John Dean, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice during the 1970s Watergate scandal, had applauded reports of McGahn’s cooperation, calling it the “right thing.”
McGahn is “doing exactly the right thing, not merely to protect himself, but to protect his client. And his client is not Donald Trump; his client is the office of the president,” Dean, who was White House counsel under Richard Nixon, told Slate earlier this month.
This story has been updated with a response from Sarah Huckabee Sanders.