People around Donald Trump have routinely tried to use executive privilege as an excuse to not have to testify to the January 6th Committee, or to avoid answering certain questions while testifying. The thing is, executive privilege doesn’t apply to criminal acts, and so most of this has been nonsense. But because the courts move slowly in resolving legal challenges over congressional subpoenas, the committee has had to settle for whatever it could get out of certain witnesses.
But it’s a different ballgame when it comes to grand jury proceedings. It turns out that even as Mike Pence aides Marc Short and Greg Jacob testified to the grand jury last week, some questions had to be set aside for fear they would violate executive privilege. So now the DOJ is preparing to ask the courts to rule that executive privilege does not apply to these matters – and the whole thing should be resolved quickly.
So why would two Pence aides, who clearly despise Donald Trump, even be concerned about executive privilege? That’s not clear. Perhaps they merely want to cover themselves legally before answering such questions. But what is clear is that the DOJ is very much looking to use the Pence aides’ testimony to nail Donald Trump. After all, executive privilege is all about the things that Trump said.
So does this mean that Donald Trump is going to somehow magically be able to “run out the clock”? No. For one thing, there’s no such thing as running out the clock in this context. And one legal expert says that the courts could resolve the executive privilege issues within “days.”
If anything, these kinds of procedural hoops are a reminder of what all is actually involved in building the kind of criminal case that can actually get a conviction at trial. Yesterday we learned that the DOJ had to get two different kinds of warrants in order to fully access John Eastman’s phone. And now it turns out the DOJ has to get executive privilege struck down just so witnesses who are friendly to the DOJ’s case can feel comfortable giving full answers. And this only serves to underscore the reality that the DOJ’s main target is and always has been Donald Trump. After all, he’s the (former) “executive” in this matter of executive privilege.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report