On Wednesday, President Trump announced via Twitter that his White House counsel, Don McGahn, would be exiting the administration in a few months time:
White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
McGahn reportedly didn’t know the tweet was coming, although he is indeed planning to leave.
What will the impact be? McGahn is widely seen inside the White House as a force for reason when it comes to the administration’s response to the Mueller investigation. Other Trump advisors have suggested an aggressive response to Mueller’s probe, but McGahn has quietly advocated for stasis. McGahn reportedly threatened to leave the administration publicly when Trump considered firing Mueller in June 2017.
Meanwhile, McGahn has been the leader when it comes to Trump’s chief achievement in the Oval Office: the appointment of originalist judges to the federal bench. McGahn has been the pipeline for recommendations to Trump; it’s not clear that he will be replaced by anyone half as effective.
His replacement is likely to be Emmett Flood, an attorney who worked with Bill Clinton to rebut impeachment proceedings. All of which suggests that Trump’s focus will be far more on the Mueller investigation and the Cohen investigation than on legal priorities in other areas.