Don McGahn had one foot out the door because he thought Trump was ‘crazy’ — but law firm boss pressured him to stay
FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn sits behind U.S. President Donald Trump as the president holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Don McGahn was ready to quit as White House counsel for Donald Trump until the managing partner of an influential conservative law firm persuaded him to stay.

McGahn had been personally responsible for picking Trump's judges, whose ranks he filled with conservatives approved by the Federalist Society, and gutting the administrative state, but less than six months into the job he was growing increasingly frustrated with handling the former president's legal problems, according to excerpts from the new book "Servants of the Damned" published by the New York Times Magazine.

"For his part, McGahn was growing worried about his own potential legal exposure — especially when Trump in June 2017 pushed him to fire Mueller," wrote author David Enrich. "McGahn refused and contemplated quitting. Around then, he called [Jones Day managing partner Stephen] Brogan. The president was crazy, McGahn fumed. Maybe, he ventured, he should cut his losses and return to Jones Day."

But Brogan, who had unsuccessfully sought the job as Trump's personal outside counsel, wanted to maintain the close relationship the firm enjoyed with the administration, whose ranks were filled with Jones Day alumni, and the firm handled a multitude of cases for the former president and his campaigns.

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"Being unhappy is 'not a good enough reason to quit,' Brogan replied, according to McGahn’s confidant," Enrich wrote. "If McGahn threw in the towel so soon after joining the White House, it would look bad not just for McGahn but also for Jones Day. McGahn, who had gotten as far as packing up his office, heeded Brogan’s advice and stayed put until late 2018. By then, he had accomplished his mission."

"The Senate had just confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the second justice McGahn had chosen, Trump had nominated and Mitch McConnell’s Senate had confirmed," Enrich added. "With McGahn in charge of selecting judicial nominees, the White House had nominated more than 130 judges to the federal courts in a span of 21 months. By the time they were confirmed, fully one-quarter of the appellate bench had turned over."

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