This Is A Very Big Difference

Attorney Donald McGahn leaves the Four Seasons hotel in New York, Thursday, June 9, 2016, after a GOP fundraiser. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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Buried deep in Ashley Parker et al.’s Saturday Post story on Trump and the Russia probe is this paragraph …

And that same month, Trump did, in fact, order McGahn to fire Mueller, a directive first reported Thursday by the New York Times. But McGahn told West Wing staff — though not the president — that he would quit before carrying out Trump’s directive, and the president ultimately backed down, people familiar with the events said.

This seems like a minor detail. But at least based on my understanding it is a quite different version of the story than the one reported by the Times last week. The entirety of that account, certainly the sense of drama and confrontation, was based on McGahn telling Trump no and backing his no up with a threat to resign. Trump backed down.

This account is far more conditional – more an observation to third parties than a confrontation of any sort. This account says McGahn told fellow West Wing staffers, though not the President. It sounds much more like a general statement than an ultimatum: ‘I’d resign before I’d do that.’

If he didn’t tell Trump, what happened exactly? It’s not clear. Perhaps McGahn separately gave Trump the ultimatum. But the story appears to say clearly that that did not happen. If I’m reading this passage correctly, they’re not simply saying they don’t have confirmation McGahn told the President but that they know McGahn did not. Big difference.

This makes it sound much more like McGahn just pocket vetoed Trump’s directive. It also raises the possibility that McGahn or his allies floated the Times version of the story and included a deceptively aggressive (and exculpating) version of events.

Of course, maybe the Post just have a different version of the story, different sources, etc. and the Times version – the direction confrontation – happened. But it certainly sounds like the Post is confident about this different version of events.

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