Alan Dershowitz On Don McGahn
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Another senior member of the Trump administration is leaving. The president announced yesterday via Twitter that White House counsel Don McGahn will leave his post in coming weeks. Trump reportedly sent this tweet before he even told McGahn. Now, this news comes in the wake of the revelation last week that McGahn met with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators for some 30 hours and reportedly answered questions that relate to an obstruction of justice probe. The president said he has a lot of affection for McGahn and that the president approved McGahn's interviews with Mueller's team before and that he has nothing to hide.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We do everything straight. We do everything by the book.
GREENE: Joining us now is Alan Dershowitz. He's a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, and his new book is called "The Case Against Impeaching Trump." Professor, welcome.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Thank you. Good morning.
GREENE: Morning to you. So Trump is saying this had nothing to do with McGahn meeting with Mueller, but the timing feels a little suspicious. I mean, McGahn is someone who's been with Trump since the early days of the campaign, and now he's fired a week after that news broke. What do you make of this?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think it has everything to do with the fact that he met with Mueller. How can you be represented or have your White House represented by somebody who might very well turn out to be a crucial witness against you? When you sit down for 30 hours with somebody whose goal it is to try to prosecute you or write a report against you or provide evidence for impeachment against you, inevitably that information will be used. Even if McGahn didn't deliberately incriminate the president, he's probably filled some gaps. He's probably provided them with some information - a meeting here and there - that they didn't know about that now they know about.
And the idea of getting advice from a lawyer who may be sitting opposite you in a courtroom seems to be that the writing was on the wall as soon as it was disclosed that he had such an extensive meeting with Mueller. I think the key question is not whether McGahn goes - of course, it was inevitable he would - it's who replaces him. It's whether or not Trump nominates a distinguished independent - say, former judge or law professor or somebody with undoubted objective credentials - or whether he tries to pick a crony who will be loyal to him rather than to the office of the presidency. Which is...
GREENE: ...What do you think of Emmet Flood, who seems to be a leading contender? He advised Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, has a lot of experience with executive privilege. But what would you think of that choice?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think it would be a good choice because he was a partner at Williams & Connolly. He was on the team that helped defend Bill Clinton. I was an informal part of that team, as well. He has an extraordinary reputation for independence and integrity. And I think he would tell the president what the president didn't want to hear. And that's the key. A really good lawyer has to be prepared to tell his client - now in this case, the president's not his client, it's the presidency that's his client - but has to prepare to tell the president what he doesn't want to hear. For example...
GREENE: What doesn't Trump want to hear right now? What...
DERSHOWITZ: Don't fire Mueller.
GREENE: Don't fire Mueller. You think that's what Emmet Flood would tell President Trump?
DERSHOWITZ: The advice that I have given indirectly to the president on television is, you know, don't fire, don't pardon, don't tweet and don't testify. He's not listened very well to that kind of advice. Would he listen to McGahn's successor if it was a very, very distinguished lawyer? I don't know the answer to that. I think the president will be tempted to pick a loyalist. That's what he has said. That's why he probably eventually will try to get a new attorney general as well.
And the president - it's interesting because the president's entitled to have loyalists in his Cabinet, and the attorney general, of course, is in the Cabinet. But he's not entitled to have loyalists to be the chief prosecuting officers, and the attorney general is that, too. The same conflict exists with the White House counsel. The White House counsel, you know, many presidents see the White House counsel as their lawyer, but he's not their lawyer. He's the lawyer for the presidency. These are subtle distinctions that are awfully hard to make when you're a kind of politician who's thinking about the big picture and the political picture.
GREENE: Can I just ask you, Professor - I mean, so was the president just lying yesterday when he said no when he was asked if he's worried about what McGahn might have told Mueller?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, he should be worried. I don't know whether he is worried. I don't know enough about the president's psyche to know when he worries and when he doesn't worry. But when your White House counsel sits down with 30 - for 30 hours, you ought to be worried.
GREENE: All right. Alan Dershowitz. His new book is "The Case Against Impeaching Trump." He is an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School. Thanks so much for your time this morning, Professor.
DERSHOWITZ: Thank you very much.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.