Trump blasts New York Times for story on White House lawyer Don McGahn
Sunday morning tweets said McGahn isn't 'a John Dean type rat,' referencing Watergate-era White House attorney
U.S. President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that White House lawyer Don McGahn isn't "a John Dean type 'RAT,"' making reference to the Watergate-era White House attorney who turned on Richard Nixon.
Trump, in a series of angry tweets, blasted a New York Times story reporting that McGahn has been co-operating extensively with the special counsel team investigating Russian election meddling and potential collusion with Trump's Republican campaign.
The failing <a href="https://twitter.com/nytimes?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nytimes</a> wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide......—@realDonaldTrump
The New York Times said in a tweet that it stands by the story.
The Watergate reference
Dean was White House counsel for Nixon, a Republican, during the Watergate scandal. He ultimately co-operated with prosecutors and helped bring down the Nixon presidency, though he served a prison term for obstruction of justice.
Dean, a frequent critic of the president, tweeted Saturday night in response to the Times story.
Nixon, generally very competent, bungled and botched his handling of Watergate. Trump, a total incompetent, is bungling and botching his handling of Russiagate. Fate is never kind to bunglers and/or botchers! Unlike Nixon, however, Trump won’t leave willingly or graciously.—@JohnWDean
He added Sunday in response to Trump's tweets that he doubts the president has "ANY IDEA what McGahn has told Mueller. Also, Nixon knew I was meeting with prosecutors, b/c I told him. However, he didn't think I would tell them the truth!"
Trump's original legal team had encouraged McGahn and other White House officials to co-operate with special counsel Robert Mueller, and McGahn spent hours in interviews.
Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press that Trump didn't raise executive privilege or attorney-client privilege during those interviews because his team believed — he says now, wrongly — that fully participating would be the fastest way to bring the investigation to a close.
"The president encouraged him to testify, is happy that he did, is quite secure that there is nothing in the testimony that will hurt the president," Giuliani said.
McGahn's attorney William Burck added in a statement: "President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn's testimony, so Mr. McGahn answered the Special Counsel team's questions fulsomely and honestly, as any person interviewed by federal investigators must."
Trump on Sunday continued to rail against the Mueller investigation, which he has labeled a "witch hunt."
"So many lives have been ruined over nothing - McCarthyism at its WORST!" Trump tweeted, referencing the indiscriminate and damaging allegations made by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to expose communists.
"Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!" he later wrote.
Critics of the president have recently compared his decision to target the security clearances of critics and those involved in the Russia investigation to the "enemies list" created by the Nixon White House to keep track of political opponents they intended to target with punitive measures.
Promised dirt on Clinton
Giuliani, in his interview, also acknowledged that the reason for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer, arranged by Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., was that they had been promised dirt on Trump's 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
"The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about Clinton," he said, adding that the Trump team didn't know that Natalia Veselnitskaya was Russian — even though emails later released by Trump Jr. show that she was described as a "Russian government attorney."
Giuliani also tried to make the case that having Donald Trump sit down for an interview with Mueller's team wouldn't accomplish much because of the he-said-she-said nature of witnesses' recollections.
"It's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth," he said, telling NBC's Chuck Todd: "Truth isn't truth."
Todd appeared flummoxed by the comment, responding: "This is going to become a bad meme."