Don McGahn

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Don McGahn
White House Counsel
Assumed office
January 20, 2017
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Neil Eggleston
Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission
In office
July 2008 – September 12, 2013
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by David M. Mason
Succeeded by Lee E. Goodman
Personal details
Born (1968-06-16) June 16, 1968 (age 53)
Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Shannon McGahn
Children 2
Education United States Naval Academy
University of Notre Dame (BA)
Widener University (JD)
Georgetown University

Donald F. "Don" McGahn II (born June 16, 1968) is the current White House Counsel for U.S. President Donald Trump, serving since January 20, 2017. He is an American campaign finance lawyer, and a former Commissioner of the United States Federal Election Commission (FEC).

McGahn was chief counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee from 1999 to 2008. He was nominated to the Federal Election Commission in 2008 by George W. Bush and served in that role until 2013. McGahn was named White House Counsel by then President-elect Trump in November 2016.

Early life and education

McGahn grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Noreen (Rogan) and Donald McGahn.[1] He attended the United States Naval Academy before receiving a BA in history and computer applications from the University of Notre Dame in 1991. He obtained his JD from Widener University School of Law in 1994 and, as of 2009, had completed coursework toward an LLM at Georgetown University Law Center.[2]


Following his graduation from law school, McGahn worked in campaign finance law at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Patton Boggs.[3]

National Republican Congressional Committee

From 1999 to 2008, McGahn was chief counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).[4] During the early 2000s, he defended House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for his actions during the controversial 2003 Texas redistricting plan. McGahn also represented DeLay in 2005 during a Federal Election Commission audit of the records of Americans for a Republican Majority, DeLay's political action committee.[5]

In 2005, when DeLay was indicted for funneling campaign contributions into the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), McGahn said that "money gets transferred all the time".[6] McGahn also defended DeLay regarding contributions made by Russian oil tycoons to the U.S. Family Network.[7] During McGahn's tenure as in-house counsel for the NRCC, it was investigated by the FBI and its treasurer was convicted of embezzlement.[8]

Following the 2004 elections, McGahn established a legal practice, McGahn & Associates PLLC. He has represented the Koch brothers-funded Freedom Partners.[9]

Federal Election Commission

McGahn was considered for the Federal Election Commission in 2005, but was passed over due to difficulty replacing him at the NRCC and concerns about his former work as ethics lawyer for Congressman DeLay.[10]

George W. Bush nominated McGahn as a Republican-selected member of the Federal Election Commission in 2008. He was confirmed on June 24, 2008 by the United States Senate and was sworn in shortly thereafter. He is credited as having played a crucial role in loosening regulations on campaign spending.[11][12] In 2013, McGahn advocated for rules that would require FEC approval for its staffers to share information with federal prosecutors.[13] Critics of the proposed rule said it would interfere with the FEC and Justice Department prosecutions of election violations. McGahn resigned from the FEC in September 2013.[14]

After leaving the FEC, McGahn returned to the law firm Patton Boggs.[4] In 2014 he moved to the law firm of Jones Day in Washington, D.C. He represented former Representative Aaron Schock as a client while Schock was being investigated for misuse of federal funds.[11]

Trump administration

McGahn served as Donald Trump's campaign counsel during his 2016 campaign for president.[4] In November 2015, he helped stop an attempt to remove Trump from the New Hampshire Republican Party primary ballot.[15]

On November 25, 2016, following Trump's election, McGahn was named White House Counsel for the President-elect's new administration.[16][17]

In May 2017 Sally Yates described discussions she had with McGahn, beginning on Jan. 26, in which she laid out her concerns about public claims made by Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials regarding National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn’s conversations in December with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.[18] After the initial meeting, Yates met with McGahn the following day to discuss the issue further. She said McGahn asked her why the Justice Department cared if one government official lied to another. Yates said she emphasized that she was trying to warn them of a potential future vulnerability to Russian intelligence operatives. “We were really concerned about the compromise here and that is why we were encouraging them to act,’’ she said. Yates said she did not urge the White House to take any specific action, such as firing Flynn. Asked if she thought Flynn had lied to the vice president, Yates replied: “That’s certainly how it appeared, yes.’’ White House officials have said McGahn immediately took the issues raised by Yates to the president but determined there was no pressing criminal issue. It is not clear what other actions, if any, White House officials took after the warning from Yates.[18]

Personal life

McGahn is married to Shannon McGahn, staff director of the House Banking Committee. They have two sons.[4] McGahn owns 30 guitars and plays a Gibson Les Paul in Scott's New Band, an '80s cover band that performs in Ocean City, Maryland.[3][11]


  1. "Jean Quinn Rogan Obituary", Citizens' Voice via, May 19, 2014.
  2. "Our Campaigns - Candidate - Donald F. "Don" McGahn II". Retrieved 25 November 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mullins, Brody; Jacoby, Mary (October 29, 2008). "FEC Chairman McGahn Marches to His Own Tune". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Levine, Carrie (May 9, 2016). "Two very different Donalds, one White House goal". Center for Public Integrity.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Shenon, Philip (May 19, 2005). "U.S. Audit Is Said to Clear Committee Run by DeLay". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Solomon, John; Theimer, Sharon (October 5, 2005). "DeLay, successor Blunt swapped donations". USA Today.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Kumar, Seshadri (January 15, 2006). "Truth, half-truth and lie in anti-DeLay ad campaign". Houston Chronicle.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Hsu, Spencer S. (December 3, 2010). "NRCC treasurer Christopher Ward sentenced to 37 months for stealing $844,000". Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Vogel, Kenneth P.; Martel, Cate (July 29, 2015). "The Kochs freeze out Trump". Politico.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Cillizza, Chris (November 28, 2005). "The Fix - McGahn Staying Put at NRCC". Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Terris, Ben (April 11, 2016). "Trump's own Beltway establishment guy: The curious journey of Don McGahn". The Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Roth, Zachary (March 23, 2016). "Trump's top lawyer helped open political spending floodgates". MSNBC.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Gold, Matea (July 13, 2013). "FEC engulfed in power struggle over staff independence". The Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Wilson, Reid (September 17, 2013). "Former FEC chairman Donald McGahn resigns from panel". The Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Haddon, Heather (November 24, 2015). "Effort to Knock Donald Trump Off N.H. Ballot Fails". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Bender, Michael C.; Palazzolo, Joe (November 26, 2016). "Donald Trump Selects Donald McGahn as White House Counsel". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Yates says she expected White House to take action on Flynn". Washington Post. May 8, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Neil Eggleston
White House Counsel