“It’s bad legal advice, bad lawyering, and this is a result of it,” Mr. Christie added.
Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, who had argued last summer against cooperating with Mr. Mueller, said, “This was a reckless and dangerously naïve strategy, and I’ve vocally said that since the time I left the White House, and I’ve said it to the president.”
The Times reported that Mr. McGahn, over at least three interviews, laid out how Mr. Trump had tried to ensure control of the special counsel investigation. Mr. McGahn gave a mix of damaging and favorable information about the president, but he said Mr. Trump did not go beyond his legal authorities as president.
Although Mr. Trump’s lawyers have little idea what Mr. McGahn told investigators, they said on Saturday and Sunday that Mr. McGahn had helped the president.
In an email to members of Mr. Trump’s legal team and other associates, which was obtained by The Times, Mr. Dowd said he had made the right choice in urging cooperation.
“We protected President by not asserting attorney-client privilege,” Mr. Dowd wrote. He added that, had the lawyers forced the Mueller team to subpoena witnesses, they would have lost the ability to exert privilege over witnesses and documents.
Still, Mr. Trump was rattled by the Times report, according to people familiar with his thinking. The president, who is said to be obsessed with the role that John W. Dean, the White House counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, played as an informant during Watergate, was jolted by the notion that he did not know what Mr. McGahn had shared.