President Donald Trump probably won’t much miss White House Counsel Don McGahn, who is going to leave his job following the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, according to a Wednesday morning tweet from Trump.
The announcement follows news that McGahn had spent some 30 hours talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s lawyers, and that the interviews covered incidents relevant to the probe of whether Trump obstructed justice. McGahn had the White House’s okay to talk, but still, the scope of the apparent cooperation apparently took Trump by surprise.
Someone else who is unlikely to miss McGahn, for reasons that aren’t so obvious, is U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.
A member of the Judiciary Committee who’s generally sympathetic to Trump’s goal of stacking the nation’s courts with proven conservatives, Kennedy nonetheless tangled with McGahn, who has overseen the process.
He cast the lone Republican “no” vote against Gregory Katsas, a member of McGahn’s staff who’d been nominated for the Washington, D.C. federal appeals court. He personally derailed the nomination of Matthew Peterson, who’d served on the Federal Election Commission with McGahn but who had little relevant experience, as Kennedy’s brutal questioning showed.
And he took his sweet time in announcing his support for Kyle Duncan, a movement conservative lawyer whom McGahn wanted to place on the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kennedy complained that the post should go to someone with deeper roots in the state than Duncan, a Louisianan who has spent much of his career in the nation’s capital.
"I have received scores of phone calls from experienced, accomplished, whip-smart, pro-life, pro-religious liberty Louisiana lawyers and judges ... who've asked me why I would support a Washington lawyer for this seat over them?" Kennedy said. But McGahn was "very firm that Mr. Duncan would be the nominee — to the point that he was on the scarce side, in one conversation, of being polite." He added that McGahn later apologized for his tone, but did not back down.
A Louisiana-based nominee, of course, would be chosen in large part by the committee’s Louisiana-based senator, which is as likely as anything to be the reason for the tension. Only Kennedy knows for sure, but sometimes things really are as simple as they seem.