The Atlantic

Trump’s Fury at Don McGahn Is Misplaced

The former White House counsel helped stock the federal courts with conservative judges. Now multiple lawsuits involving Trump are headed there.
Source: Evan Vucci / AP

Loyalty is something President Donald Trump demands, but doesn’t necessarily return. Just ask ex–White House Counsel Don McGahn.

In recent weeks, the president has turned on his former lawyer for making some of the most explosive claims about Trump’s conduct in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. “Never a big fan!” Trump tweeted earlier in May, suggesting he had been tempted to fire McGahn. Just this week, he barred McGahn from testifying to the House Judiciary Committee about what he saw and heard inside the White House.

But McGahn’s service may have been more valuable to Trump than he realizes—it could even wind up prolonging his presidency.

Because Trump never saw McGahn as a confidant—because he didn’t look to him much for legal advice—McGahn had more time and space to pursue a pet project: stocking the courts with conservative judges, former White House aides told me. And with multiple lawsuits threatening Trump’s interests wending their way through the courts, federal judges hold enormous sway over the president’s fate.

Judges are now deciding whether Trump has violated constitutional provisions against accepting gifts from foreign countries through visits to

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min read
The Fury of the Prep-School Parents
An elite-college education is one of the few expensive things that is for sale, but that not everyone is allowed to buy.
The Atlantic10 min readSociety
Tracing the Internal Queer Revolution
Riots and parades have made LGBTQ people visible. But a new anthology of writings from before, during, and after Stonewall shows the inward changes as more essential.
The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
Joe Biden Won’t Say If He Backs the Trade Deal He Helped Sell
The Atlantic surveyed the Democratic presidential candidates on whether they support the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Only some took a definitive position.