“Bad lawyering” from President Trump’s previous attorneys explains recent reports that White House counsel Don McGahn had spoken at length with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday.
Fox News confirmed Saturday that McGahn had met several times with federal investigators, amid a New York Times report that the sit-downs totaled more than 30 hours over nine months.
Christie specifically called out former Trump attorneys Ty Cobb and John Dowd for failing to invoke executive privilege and initially cooperating with investigators, which he said had forced McGahn’s hand and exposed the president to legal jeopardy.
“This shows what a C-level legal team the president had, in Ty Cobb and John Dowd,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Cobb and Dowd had broadly pursued a strategy of cooperation with the special counsel’s probe, saying the administration had nothing to hide. But, Christie charged, once Cobb and Dowd waived the president’s legal privilege that shielded him from investigators’ document requests, they effectively prevented the president’s future lawyers from legally using that privilege in the future.
“You never waive that. Absolutely not,” Christie added, referring to the executive and attorney-client privileges which could have barred investigators significant access to Trump administration officials and documents. “And it put Don McGhan in an impossible position. Once you waive that privilege and you turn over all those documents, Don McGahn has no choice then but to go in and answer everything, answer every question they can ask him.
“That wasn’t in the president’s interest,” Christie continued. “If he had gotten good legal advice at the time, he would’ve done something else. It’s bad legal advice, bad lawyering, and this is the result of it.”
Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz told “Fox & Friends” on Sunday that McGahn probably did not have attorney-client privilege with Trump, because he represents the White House, not the president himself. But on the executive privilege issue, Dershowitz said Cobb and Dowd had made a “tough call,” but a reasonable one that simply did not work out.
A source reached by Fox News played down the Times article, saying that there didn’t seem to be anything revelatory in the report’s information and adding that it was already known that Trump had instructed McGahn to cooperate with Mueller’s team.
And John Dowd, Trump’s former lead outside attorney, told Fox News that “Don McGahn was a very strong witness for the president.”
Trump on Sunday tweeted that McGahn isn’t “a John Dean type ‘RAT,'” referring to the Watergate-era White House attorney who turned on Richard Nixon.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News, “The president and Don have a great relationship. He appreciates all the hard work he’s done, particularly his help and expertise with the judges and the Supreme Court.”
The Times report comes amid pressure from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, for Mueller to conclude the monthslong investigation.
Speaking on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Giuliani pressed for Mueller to wrap up the probe and said McGahn couldn’t have revealed any significantly damaging information about Trump — because that would imply he was complicit in wrongdoing.
“The New York Times uses very, very deftly the idea that he cooperated extensively — well, sure he did,” Giuliani said. “It’s a complicated thing. But we are confident that he said nothing wrong about the president, and we’re confident because the man [McGahn] is a man of integrity, and he would have resigned if something like that would have happened.”
Giuliani turned to ex-CIA Director John Brennan, whose security clearance was revoked by President Trump last week. Brennan has floated the idea of suing Trump for the move, which some critics have charged could raise First Amendment concerns — and Giuliani said he’d love to see him attempt it.
“Then we take his deposition right away,” Giuliani said. “I’d volunteer to do that case. I’d love to have Brennan under oath. … My payment for this investigation and my representation of the president is to get to depose John Brennan, one of the biggest, biggest frauds in the history of this country.”
The White House accused Brennan of misleading Congress about CIA spying in the Senate, as well as improperly politicizing his security clearance.
Speaking separately on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Giuliani attracted criticism online for telling host Chuck Todd that “truth isn’t truth,” as part of his argument that federal investigators can sometimes catch witnesses in so-called “perjury traps” even when they are telling the truth, as long as they can find other witnesses who dispute their claims.
Todd responded: “This is going to become a bad meme.”
Fox News’ Elizabeth Zwirz contributed to this report.