Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and other former Trump aides cannot claim executive privilege to get out of testifying in the special counsel’s investigation, a federal judge ruled last week, according to an ABC News report. Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, white supremacist former top aide Stephen Miller, former deputy chief of staff and Social Media Director Dan Scavino, former Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli, and other Trump aides are also on the list of members of Team Trump who Judge Beryl Howell ordered to testify.
Some people on that list have already testified to the grand jury while refusing to answer questions about their interactions with Donald Trump, which sort of diminishes the usefulness of their testimony in an investigation of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. They will have to return to answer more questions if Howell’s order is upheld on appeal.
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Trump is expected to appeal.
“The DOJ is continuously stepping far outside the standard norms in attempting to destroy the long accepted, long held, Constitutionally based standards of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege,” a Trump spokesperson said in a statement. “There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump. The deranged Democrats and their comrades in the mainstream media are corrupting the legal process and weaponizing the justice system in order to manipulate public opinion, because they are clearly losing the political battle.”
That mention of attorney-client privilege is a reference to Howell’s previous decision to allow the special counsel to invoke the crime-fraud exception after showing evidence that Trump used the advice of his lawyer, Evan Corcoran, in furtherance of a crime. Far from being a major step outside norms to destroy “constitutionally based” standards, the crime-fraud exception has been well established—even if it is more often used in mafia prosecutions than investigations of former presidents hoarding classified documents. Howell’s decision there was upheld on appeal.
In the Meadows et al. question of executive privilege, Howell ruled that the current president gets to make executive privilege decisions. In January 2022, Trump lost an executive privilege claim relating to documents being turned over to the Jan. 6 committee, but in that case the Supreme Court sidestepped the question of whether a former president could claim executive privilege when the sitting president did not.
The appeals court moved at lightning speed to resolve the attorney-client privilege question when it came to Corcoran, so it seems likely that a Trump appeal here would similarly be resolved before long.
Subpoenas to Meadows and Pence. Eight secret court cases. The special counsel is not messing around
It's just barely springtime in an off year, but there's been loads of election news lately, so co-hosts David Nir and David Beard have a super-sized roundup on this week's episode of The Downballot. The Davids recap the first round of voting in the race for Jacksonville mayor (which saw Democrats do unusually well) and the collapse of an effort to recall New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell before turning to big batch of 2024 updates.
On tap for the Senate: The GOP's desperate effort to compete with Democratic fundraising enthusiasm by recruiting self-funders; why Republicans are afraid the guy who succeeded John Boehner in Congress will try to challenge Sherrod Brown; and how Democrats' plans to clear the field in Michigan may not succeed. Plus developments in the battle for New Hampshire's governorship, a key House seat in Wisconsin, and the saga of Tennessee's answer to George Santos.