Political News

Ex-ethics chief: White House counsel 'is a cancer'

Posted January 5, 2018 8:08 a.m. EST

— A former director of the US Office of Government Ethics on Friday called White House counsel Don McGahn "a cancer who has done much to undermine anticorruption mechanisms in this country" following an explosive report published in The New York Times.

"He drove the federal election commission into a ditch to undermine our election laws. He did a direct assault on the ethics program and now we're learning he attacked the Department of Justice," Walter Shaub told CNN's Alisyn Camerota.

Shaub, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump who served as ethics director under the Obama administration and is now a CNN contributor, was responding to a report in the Times that said Trump ordered McGahn last March to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from oversight of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump's reported attempt to have a political ally maintain control of an investigation into his associates would add to a list of possible examples of Trump seeking to influence the Justice Department -- and opening himself up to potential obstruction of justice claims.

Ty Cobb, a lawyer for the President, told CNN Thursday night he "respectfully declines to respond." A message left with McGahn seeking comment Friday morning was not immediately returned.

"It is a crime for a federal employee to participate in a particular matter in which he has a financial interest," Shaub said. "An investigation in a particular matter. A subject of an investigation is a financial interest in that investigation. And Jeff Sessions was a member of the Trump campaign who spoke with Russian officials in 2016 in one capacity or another, and did not reveal that in his congressional testimony under oath."

He continued: "So he was certainly a potential subject of any investigation into the Trump's campaign with Russian officials and he knew that, which is why he did do the right thing and recuse."

Shaub also said McGahn is unqualified to be in his role at the White House.

"I hope (special counsel Robert) Mueller is looking at this very seriously for obstruction of justice because it could be," Shaub said. "(McGahn) is in over his head in the job and I question whether he's got the character he needs to be able to do that ... (he) should go back in time and undo what he did."