Donald F. McGahn, II is a well-respected lawyer who has spent his life in service to conservative causes. Well-educated and cautious, McGahn seems like the last person who would have found himself in the orbit of the mercurial Donald J. Trump. But, in 2016, that was precisely where the highly regarded conservative campaign lawyer was positioned.
A longstanding member of the conservative Federalist Society, McGahn proved to be one of the primary architects of the Trump Administration’s legal assault on the Administrative State.
In fact, had it not been for McGahn whispering in the forty-fifth president’s ear, it is likely that the totally out-of-his-element Trump would have never picked the outstanding conservative jurists to the federal courts—including the Supreme Court of the United States—that he had ultimately chosen. Naturally, too, the working relationship between McGahn and Trump had totally collapsed by the end of the first year of the Trump Administration.
Surviving President King Kong (ASA Donald Trump)
As McGahn would later confess, he was routinely subjected to “badgering phone calls” at home by President Trump who would often say, in McGahn’s words, “some crazy *** ****.”
Things deteriorated so badly between Trump and the man who had served as the White House Counsel that McGahn had secretly coined a derisive nickname for his boss “******* Kong” (a reference to the infamous movie monster, King Kong, who terrorized the denizens of New York while destroying everything in his sight).
Just like so many men and women who found themselves working in the chaos pit that was the Trump White House, McGahn had repeatedly written his resignation letter.
Each time he contemplated handing an unstable Trump the letter, McGahn tabled it only after realizing that his position as White House counsel gave McGahn a “once-in-a-never-again” opportunity. That opportunity was for McGahn to personally, fundamentally reorder the Administrative State by stacking the federal courts with jurists whose entire raison d’être was hemming in an out-of-control bureaucracy.
Trump takes the credit, as executives are wont to do, for all the successes of those under him. The only problem for Trump is that he clearly would not have arrived at the excellent judicial picks that we vital.
Instead, the judges were clearly the result of McGahn’s lifelong commitment to the conservative cause of rolling back an Administrative State that, like the shrubbery around a long-abandoned mansion, has overgrown the original structure they once supported, and is in need of being seriously pruned.
In fact, in Michael Schmidt’s book Donald Trump v. the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President, McGahn detailed a fight that he had with the forty-fifth president in which Trump demanded that McGahn withdraw the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
Ever the egoist, Trump became aware of Gorsuch’s attacks against the President’s escalating public attacks on the legitimacy of the federal judiciary. Trump was told how Gorsuch, during meetings with several prominent Democrats on the Hill as part of the nomination process, had “pointedly distanced” himself from Trump on the forty-fifth president’s vicious public castigations of the federal judiciary.
Trump believed that Gorsuch would not be adequately loyal and attempted to scuttle his nomination to the bench. This was one instance where McGahn prepared his single-line resignation but ultimately buggered off that approach, realizing that he could manage the uneven Trump long enough to get Gorsuch on the bench.
The Real Brains Behind Trump’s Operation
McGahn got Gorsuch on the bench. Followed by Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination process will forever go down in history as one of the greatest (thankfully failed) assassination attempts of anyone appointed to the SCOTUS bench in the history of our republic. On top of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh—the coup de grace to McGahn’s service in the tumultuous Trump Administration—McGahn helped to usher an additional 54 conservative jurists to federal appeals courts along with 174 conservative jurists to various district courts.
Inevitably, the McGahn-Trump relationship was damaged beyond repair.
On Oct. 18, 2018, two years after McGahn began advising Trump on various legal matters, McGahn left Trump’s orbit under a cloud of animosity and controversy.
Sadly, McGahn Won’t Be in Another Trump Administration
Because of McGahn’s overriding commitment to the cause, the grand vision of the Right, of reducing a bloated and unaccountable Administrative State has finally migrated from the realm of theory to political reality.
Today, there are three cases – with more on the way – that SCOTUS will hear in which grave damage to the Administrative can be dealt. These cases would have never been heard, had McGahn’s recommendations for judges to Trump not been heeded.
Should this growing conservative assault on the Administrative State persist and be successful, it could create massive opportunities for the next conservative president to build momentum and continue slaying the various swamp creatures who run the administrative swamp in Washington, D.C. Conservatives owe Don McGahn a serious debt of gratitude—as does Donald Trump, whose legacy is built upon his successful selection of judges.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.