Sally Yates will testify before a Senate subcommittee this afternoon regarding what she told the White House about Michael Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia.
Yates will almost certainly talk about Don McGahn, a little known Trump administration official who is a key part of Yates’ account of what happened leading up to her firing in January and Michael Flynn’s resignation in February.
So who exactly is Don McGahn? Here’s what you need to know about him.
1. He Is the Current White House Counsel
Don McGahn currently serves as White House counsel.
The White House counsel’s role is to advise the president of the United States on legal issues. He also serves as the White House’s contact to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The position of White House counsel was created in 1943. It is a staff appointment, meaning the person need not to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Before McGahn, the previous White House counsel was Neil Eggleston.
McGahn played a similar role in the Donald Trump campaign as he does now in the White House; he was the Trump 2016 campaign’s legal counsel.
2. He Previously Worked at the Federal Election Commission, Where He Loosened Regulations
Before coming to work for Donald Trump, Don McGahn worked at the Federal Election Commission.
During his time with the Federal Election Commission, McGahn has been credited with loosening regulations, especially regulations on campaign spending.
“In just five years, he ground the FEC to a slow crawl, with fewer disciplinary actions and fines at a time when 501(c)4s and super PACs flooded the political system with dark money,” Politico reported in February 2017. “To longtime staffers, former FEC officials, and campaign finance and good-government experts, McGahn’s tenure seemed like part of a broader Republican-sanctioned strategy to defang the agency.”
A former FEC staffer told Politico that it was pretty clear that McGahn didn’t think the Federal Election Commission should exist at all.
3. He Previously Worked at the NRCC, Where He Defended Tom DeLay
Another previous job of McGahn’s was as chief counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
His stint there involved defending House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was indicted for allegedly funneling campaign contributions into a political action committee.
“…[M]oney gets transferred all the time,” McGahn said in defense of DeLay, according to the USA Today. “This was disclosed to the extent required to be disclosed by applicable law. It just shows that donors don’t control funds once they’re given.”
The FEC later found that DeLay’s PAC improperly spent $200,000 and failed to report an addition $300,000. DeLay was also investigated for allegedly accepting bribes.
During this period of time, McGahn was known as the go-to lawyer for House Republicans, according to Mother Jones.
4. Sally Yates Says She Warned Him That Michael Flynn Misled Trump Administration Officials
In February 2017, Michael Flynn resigned from his position as national security advisor after misleading administration officials about the nature of his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 election.
Sally Yates says she warned Don McGahn that Michael Flynn lied to the Trump administration, and the White House confirmed as much in February.
However, Press Secretary Sean Spicer also said in February that Don McGahn had concluded that there was no legal issue with Michael Flynn.
“Immediately after the Department of Justice notified the White House Counsel of the situation, the White House Counsel briefed the President and a small group of senior advisors,” Sean Spicer said in a February press briefing. “The White House Counsel reviewed and determined that there is not a legal issue, but rather a trust issue…When the President heard the information as presented by White House Counsel, he instinctively thought that General Flynn did not do anything wrong, and the White House Counsel’s review corroborated that.”
On May 8th, President Donald Trump accused Sally Yates of leaking classified information to the press after she delivered it to Don McGahn. When Trump refers to the White House counsel, he’s referring to McGahn; Trump originally wrote “council” in his tweet, but a few hours later, he deleted the tweet and reposted it with the correct wording.
5. He Is Married to Shannon McGahn, Who Works at the Treasury Department
Don McGahn is married to Shannon McGahn, who also works in government.
Shannon McGahn from 2013 to 2017 served on the House Financial Services Committee. She got her start in politics by working as an intern for John Kasich, who she had bumped into years earlier.
“I grew up down the street from him, and at one point early in high school I ran into him at the pharmacy down the street and introduced myself,” McGahn told The Atlantic. “He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said something like, ‘Well, sir, I’d like to work for you.'”
In March, McGahn was hired to work at the Treasury Department, and she currently advises Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.