The White Home has invoked govt privilege up to now to dam former aides equivalent to Don McGahn from complying with comparable congressional subpoenas. Whereas testifying in June, Hope Hicks declined to reply practically each query about her time within the West Wing, citing directions from President Donald Trump that she was “completely immune” from answering. Annie Donaldson, McGahn’s deputy, additionally didn’t reply greater than 200 questions in her written responses to the Home Judiciary Committee, citing comparable immunity.
However this may be the primary time Trump has tried to invoke privilege for somebody who has by no means labored within the administration. McGahn, Hicks and Donaldson all held titles within the West Wing; Lewandowski has solely informally suggested Trump since his work on the 2016 marketing campaign ended.
Trump officers and allies aren’t assured the transfer will work, skeptical that the President will have the ability to assert the identical govt privilege rules over a casual adviser as he would a employees member. The White Home has been involved with members of the Workplace of Authorized Counsel on the Justice Division about whether or not it will achieve success, and say it stays an choice. A White Home official cautioned that the discussions are preliminary and no formal Workplace of Authorized Counsel opinion has been sought or rendered by the White Home counsel’s workplace but.
“Govt privilege exists to guard inner authorities info that, if made public, would trigger some harm to the nation,” mentioned Mark Rozell, the writer of “Govt Privilege: Presidential Energy, Secrecy and Accountability.” “It applies to the President and high-level govt department officers, not non-public residents who by no means served within the administration.”
“Lewandowski’s position with Trump formally was within the context of a political marketing campaign, months previous to the President taking workplace. As govt privilege is an implied Article II primarily based presidential energy, it doesn’t apply to marketing campaign actions or to the deliberations between a profitable candidate and marketing campaign employees,” mentioned Rozell, dean of the Schar Faculty of Coverage and Authorities at George Mason College.
“Briefly, it is a colossal overreach of the President’s authority to assert govt privilege. There isn’t any foundation for it on this case,” he added.
Home Democrats approved the subpoena for Lewandowski and others in July. As administration officers have mentioned invoking privilege to cease him from answering sure questions associated to his conversations with the President, they had been ready for the subpoena earlier than taking any official motion.
White Home officers don’t consider Lewandowski will have the ability to cite immunity to keep away from answering questions, as a result of it’s reserved for presidency staff, however maintained there’s a risk they might invoke privilege over a few of his solutions.
The conversations about govt privilege reveal the boundaries the White Home is keen to check to stop the President’s allies — even those that have by no means held a proper position within the administration — from answering questions on delicate subjects in entrance of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
In his report, Robert Mueller detailed how Trump requested Lewandowski to strain then-Legal professional Common Jeff Periods to rein within the particular counsel’s investigation so it will focus solely on election interference. Although Lewandowski organized a gathering with Periods, the report says Periods canceled due to a “final minute battle.” Lewandowski then contacted Rick Dearborn, an administration aide who labored for Periods when he was a senator, asking him to ship the message as a substitute.
Democrats authorized one dozen new subpoenas for witnesses listed in Mueller’s report, together with a number of who’ve labored within the administration — Periods, Jared Kushner, John Kelly — along with others who haven’t, equivalent to Lewandowski and David Pecker, the American Media govt who helped purchase the silence of girls who alleged that they had affairs with the President.