Former White House counsel says Trump thinks differently


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump thinks differently than any client he has ever had, often contradicting common wisdom and then seeing his way work out in the end, former White House counsel Don McGahn said Friday at a conference of conservative lawyers and scholars.

Others will tell the president that something is impossible. Nevertheless, the president will pursue it, “but then it works,” McGahn said at a conference of Florida chapters of The Federalist Society.

“He goes through a decision-tree faster than anyone I’ve seen, to get where he thinks the situation is going to go,” McGahn said during a question-and-answer format with Jan Crawford, CBS News' chief legal correspondent. “He thinks differently than anyone else I've represented."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was scheduled later Friday to address the group, gathered at a Walt Disney World resort.

McGahn joined Trump's 2016 campaign and was named White House counsel when Trump assumed office. He played key roles in the nominations of two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as scores of other federal judges. In Trump's administration, 187 federal judges have been confirmed to the bench in what many see as a transformation of the judiciary toward a conservative bent. Many of the judges have been suggested by The Federalist Society.

During Kavanaugh's confirmation process, Trump never considered withdrawing the judge's nomination when it was threatened by accusations of sexual assault from when Kavanaugh was a young man, McGahn said.

McGahn, who is now in private practice with the law firm Jones Day, lamented the hyper-partisan nature of judicial nominations. Some circuit judge confirmation hearings have the same intensity as that of a Supreme Court nomination hearing three decades ago, he said.

Asked about establishment Republicans who had initially questioned why the well-regarded attorney had joined Trump’s team, McGahn rattled off the names of the two Supreme Court nominees and the scores of other judges who have been appointed under Trump.

“The list goes on-and-on,” McGahn said. “That’s my answer to whatever genius said I can’t believe Don is standing next to Donald Trump.”

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Mike Schneider

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