As the weeks go by and the release of Special Counsel Mueller’s final report on the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with agents of the Russian Federation during the 2016 election draws closer and closer, the White House is scrambling to find a way to keep its potentially explosive contents from ever reaching the public.
They appear to have settled on abusing executive privilege as their tactic of choice. Under the rules that govern the Special Counsel, his report is only required to be submitted to the Justice Department leaders, not Congress or the American people — meaning control over the report will rest with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker or replacement nominee William Barr, both of whom are Trump appointees who are on the record criticizing the Mueller probe.
Officials familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg News that the White House is considering exercising executive privilege in order to withhold parts of or possibly all of the report from reaching House Democrats, who have already sworn to demand the Justice Department hand over the highly anticipated document upon its completion.
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“We will look at it and see if the president thinks there is a valid claim and if there is, do we want to make it. We reserve the right. We don’t know if we have to, but we haven’t waived it” said Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, reports Bloomberg.
Executive privilege is the presidential prerogative to withhold the White House’s internal deliberations from questioning by Congress, and has been the subject of much controversy in recent years.
Doing so would certainly start a protracted and tense legal battle that many analysts say is unlikely to result in victory for Trump but which they worry could delay the release of the report for a long time, even years. The White House could also try to exploit the need to keep intelligence sources and information collection methods classified in order to keep parts of the report from ever seeing the light of day.
But even that might not be enough to save Trump. Bloomberg‘s Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece note that Mueller could “outflank” him by having a grand jury make a presentment public report or by straight-up attempting to indict the President. Congress could subpoena Trump and force him to answer questions under oath.
So while Trump can try all he wants to keep the evidence of his crimes from reaching the public, he’s facing an uphill battle he’s likely to lose entirely.