There are no magic wands for Donald Trump’s people when it comes to trying to get the January 6th Committee to leave them alone. We’ve seen various Trump people try to find magic wands, ranging from “executive privilege” (ask Steve Bannon how that one worked out, as he prepares for his scheduled criminal trial) to pleading the fifth to every question (which doesn’t work either). Then there’s the Mark Meadows strategy of providing some cooperation but getting rung up for contempt anyway.
Now Trump associate Bernard Kerik appears to be trying a new variation of the partial cooperation strategy. According to Politico he’s provided the January 6th Committee with a large number of documents, while withholding other more damning documents under the nonsensical claim of executive privilege. Here’s the catch, though: he’s provided a list of the documents he’s refusing to turn over. No, really.
Kerik has given the committee what he’s calling a “privilege log” of the withheld documents, including one that he says is titled “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.” In other words, Kerik just gave the committee a heads-up that such a document exists. So now the committee can try to obtain that document through other means, perhaps from other more cooperative witnesses who may not have known they had access to it.
Kerik could be purposely tipping off the committee as to the existence of this key evidence, in the hope that it decides not to ring him up for contempt, because at least he gave them a solid lead on what to go hunt down. Or it could be that Kerik stupidly didn’t realize that his “privilege log” drew a roadmap that told the committee precisely what to go hunt down.
It’s not clear if Bernard Kerik has done something clever or stupid here. That’s going to depend on whether his goal is to try to find a novel way to get himself off the hook at Trump’s expense, or if he’s trying (and failing) to protect Trump. On the one hand, Trump did give Kerik a symbolic pardon (long after Kerik was released from prison), so Kerik does “owe” Trump. On the other hand, Kerik has spent several years in prison and thus probably doesn’t want to go back. We’ll see where this leads. But keep in mind that if Kerik’s partial cooperation turns out to be useless, the committee will simply ring him up for contempt, and he will in fact end up back in prison.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report