- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The resignation of White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has thrust into the spotlight another key member of President Trump’s inner circle: White House Counsel Don McGahn.

The White House confirmed Tuesday that then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates notified Mr. McGahn on Jan. 26 that Mr. Flynn likely misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions. She warned the White House counsel that Mr. Flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail.

Mr. McGahn told the president “immediately,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer, setting in motion an internal review that ended with Mr. Flynn’s resignation Monday night.

“The White House counsel reviewed and determined that there is not an illegal issue, but rather a trust issue,” Mr. Spicer said.

It was the second high-profile dilemma of Mr. Trump’s month-old presidency, and Mr. McGahn was heavily involved in both. The president’s top lawyer also had an important role in preparing the administration’s executive action on extreme vetting of migrants, which was blocked by federal judges amid criticism of a disjointed rollout.

Former Obama White House ethics czar Norm Eisen said on Twitter that the two “biggest Trump debacles so far were both in WH Counsel McGahn’s wheelhouse.” MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said the “knives are out” for Mr. McGahn’s job as well.

“Other questions will and should be asked about what McGahn has done to enforce ethics rules,” Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith said in a blog post. “Ethics compliance is one of the White House Counsel’s primary responsibilities. The multiple ethics problems swirling around the White House are squarely McGahn’s responsibility.”

Until now, Mr. McGahn, 48, hadn’t attracted much attention outside Washington. The former Federal Election Commission chairman and part-time bass player is known as an aggressive advocate for his clients, and whose early loyalty to Mr. Trump during the Republican primary was ultimately rewarded with one of the most important jobs in any administration.

From 2008 to 2013 Mr. McGahn served as a commissioner at the FEC, where he led efforts for more open deliberations at the agency and worked to block campaign finance investigations that he believed were examples of government intrusion. Democrats accused him of backing off election law enforcement.

Mr. McGahn also worked for nearly 10 years as an election lawyer at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

His clients have included former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who resigned in 2006 under indictment for money laundering in a campaign finance case but was ultimately vindicated after lengthy appeals; former Rep. Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican convicted in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal; and former Rep. Aaron Schock, Illinois Republican, indicted on charges of misspending campaign money.

Prior to joining Mr. Trump’s campaign team in 2015, Mr. McGahn worked at the law firm Jones Day, and had a reputation for mastering every facet of election law.

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