Democrats had sought to put McGahn on record before the House Judiciary Committee on some of the most pivotal moments of the Trump presidency, including when then-President Donald Trump directed McGahn to fire then-special counsel Robert Mueller and McGahn refused.
He had described Trump’s maneuvers extensively to the Mueller team, but the Trump administration had blocked him from repeating the interviews with Congress.
McGahn served as the top lawyer on Trump’s 2016 campaign and was White House counsel until fall 2018. He was one of the most significant witnesses against Trump, sitting for interviews with the FBI and prosecutors five times in Mueller’s investigation as the special counsel sought to chronicle Trump’s obstructive acts.
Democrats sought McGahn’s testimony shortly after Mueller’s investigation ended in spring 2019. After a lengthy court battle — and stonewalling from the Trump administration — they finally struck an agreement with the Biden Justice Department this spring that allowed for McGahn’s appearance last week.
McGahn had been represented in the standoff in court by administration attorneys claiming he was immune from congressional testimony because of his high-ranking position in the White House. William Burck, a private attorney for McGahn, represented him during his interview.
The Mueller report did not conclude that the President committed a crime like obstruction of justice, but it also made clear that it did not exonerate him, leaving the decision of whether to indict Trump to then-Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department’s top political appointees. They declined to prosecute the President.
Under the agreement for McGahn’s testimony, House Judiciary Committee members and staff could ask him about the incidents documented in the Mueller report but unable to press McGahn on other scandals that occurred during Trump’s presidency.
McGahn’s private attorney stepped in to stop an answer only a few times Friday, according to the person connected to McGahn, because the committee was potentially veering toward privileged conversations between McGahn and his lawyer. The Justice Department was vocal on some aspects of what McGahn couldn’t answer, the person said, though that wouldn’t be unusual for hearings like these.