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White House asked McGahn to say Trump didn't obstruct justice

McGahn rejected White House request

The White House asked former White House counsel Don McGahn to publicly state President Trump did not obstruct justice, CBS News has confirmed. A source familiar with the matter told CBS News that White House lawyer Emmet Flood made the request, which McGahn did not comply with.

"We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister," said McGahn's attorney, William Burck. "It was a request, professionally and cordially made." 

McGahn has told special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators he believed Mr. Trump did not obstruct justice, but has not spoken on it publicly, The New York Times reported.

In Mueller's long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller did not make a judgment on whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice. But Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have cleared the president.

Mueller's report, though, detailed 10 instances of possible obstruction by Mr. Trump, including by unsuccessfully ordering McGahn to fire Mueller in the summer of 2017. According to the report, Mr. Trump backed off the request when McGahn refused. 

Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday night he never wanted to fire Mueller. "Actually, lawyer Don McGahn had a much better chance of being fired than Mueller. Never a big fan!" Mr. Trump wrote. 

 House Democrats want McGahn to testify before Congress, but Mr. Trump has indicated that the White House would try to block the former counsel's appearance, saying McGahn has testified for enough time before the special counsel.

"I've had him testifying already for 30 hours and it's really — so I don't think I can let him and then tell everybody else you can't," Mr. Trump said last week in an interview with Fox News.

House Judiciary chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler also threatened Tuesday to hold McGahn in contempt if he didn't respond to a congressional subpoena for Mueller's documents.

Democrats are also trying to get Mueller to testify, but have not yet agreed on a date for him to appear. Mr. Trump this week claimed executive privilege over Mueller's entire report and the underlying documents, after Nadler issued a subpoena for the full report, including redacted portions and supporting documents.