2019-07-09 14:52:041 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
The House Judiciary Committee is resigned to getting answers to remaining questions about the Russia investigation the only way they can. And in Annie Donaldson's case, that meant getting them in writing, and even at that, White Houe attorneys still blocked her from answering more than 200 questions.
Donaldson is former White House counsel Don McGahn's former chief of staff. She is known to have taken copious notes when McGahn exited meetings with Trump. She was subpoenaed in May, along with former White House communications director Hope Hicks, who testified last month and also had questions blocked by White House attorneys.
Donaldson was able to confirm a few things and provide not much more knowledge than what was known previously, such as confirming she took notes while working in the White House. Former special counsel Robert Mueller referred to those notes 65 times in his report.
The House is following up on her knowledge, trying to confirm Donald Trump committed obstruction after Mueller detailed 10 possible incidents where he may have.
She was not allowed by the White House attorneys to explain her thinking at the time of the communication between Trump and McGahn.
In all, Donaldson was blocked from answering 212 questions by the White House attorneys. The answers were submitted to the committee this past weekend and released on Monday.
She was able to confirm that Mueller cited her notes accurately in his report and that her testimony that she gave in her interviews was correct. This includes writing in her notes after Comey was fired, "Is this the beginning of the end?"
She told Mueller's office that she wrote the note because she was worried that when Comey was fired that it would end Trump's time in office. The reason she thought it was a problem was blocked by the White House due to "constitutionally-based executive branch confidentiality interests."
Donaldson was also able to confirm she planned to resign in June 2017, as McGahn had told her he was planning on the same rather than follow up on Trump's instructions that made him uncomfortable.
Mueller's reported described that after he was appointed, Trumped asked McGahn to call then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and get him to fire Mueller. Instead, he went to the White House on a Saturday and packed up his things, preparing to resign. He called Donaldson and told her but did not tell her details of Trump's request, trying not to involve her.
Donaldson confirmed her original decision to retire with McGahn, but when asked to explain why, she said she was barred from answering. Eventually, neither resigned at the time and Trump let the suggestion drop.
She also did not answer several questions pertaining to whose viewpoints she transcribed in her notes, even though they were mostly McGahn's concerns, such as who urged Trump's draft of the letter to terminate Comey that contained a mention that the Russia investigation "should not see the light of day."
She was able to confirm several other things in the report, such as White House attorneys ordering former Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to contact anyone in the White House about his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. She was not allowed to answer what Trump's worries were regarding Sessions' recusal.
Donaldson was not able to discuss McGahn's warning to Trump that she shouldn't contact Comey about the Russia investigation and was not allowed to comment on her note that read, "POTUS in panic/chaos."
She did say McGahn warned Trump that suggesting Mueller had a "conflict of interest" could be interpreted as obstruction.
The House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) could hold Donaldson in civil contempt and take her to court, but she is not able to travel because she is pregnant.
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