Executive privilege is the long-standing principle that states that the president can resist certain subpoenas and other interventions by the legislative and judicial branches of government in pursuit of information or personnel relating to confidential communications that would impair governmental functions. While it is not a concept that appears anywhere in the constitution, its validity in certain circumstances has been affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Then there is the “constitutional immunity” that Donald Trump is inventing out of thin air by claiming that no one who has ever worked for his administration has any responsibility to testify before Congress if Trump decides he doesn’t want them to. Perhaps Trump thought that by giving it that misnomer of a name he could give the idea of unconditional blanket immunity for the executive branch some legitimacy despite the fact that it appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution and has yet to be tested in the courts.
Yet the Trump administration has already used their imaginary “constitutional immunity” to prevent testimony from a number of officials despite the fact that they had waived executive privilege to give their accounts to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Now it is again being utilized as an excuse to allow two former aides to President Trump — former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative, Intergovernmental Affairs and Implementation Rick Dearborn and former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter — to defy their subpoenas to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this morning.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter informing the panel that the Justice Department recommended and Trump directed the two former aides to go against their subpoenas due to “constitutional immunity that protects senior advisers to the president from compelled congressional testimony, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of President.”
That leaves only former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — the campaign manager who didn’t get convicted of a felony and sent to prison, like Paul Manafort —to testify before the Judiciary Committee today, since having never formally worked in the administration, he can’t claim any kind of privileged status.
Still, Cipollone is attempting to prevent Lewandowski from disclosing private conversations
with the president beyond what is public from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. According to the Associated Press, the White House counsel sent another letter to the Judiciary committee letting them know that he had informed Lewandowski “
not to discuss the substance of any conversations he had with the President or senior Presidential advisers about official government matters, unless the information is expressly contained in the Report.”
Democrats on the committee — who have already vowed to fight the administration’s over-reaching assertions of privilege in the courts — were outraged by the latest attempts by Trump to cover-up the details of his obstruction of justice as already outlined in the Mueller report as they mull full impeachment proceedings.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who had issued the subpoenas to the three administration officials originally scheduled to testify today, said that the White House instructions to its former associates were the product of a “shocking and dangerous assertion.”
“The President would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress — even if they did not actually work for him or his administration,” Nadler stated.
The elusive behavior of the Trump administration only raises further suspicions of guilt on their part. Any innocent party would welcome a full investigation of their behavior. The fact that the president is doing everything in his power to prevent the truth of what occurred behind the closed doors of the White House only indicates that he has something to hide and that his hold on the presidency hangs in the balance.