“Well I think you have to for the sake of the office,” is a thought I never thought I’d hear uttered from Donald Trump. Interest in preserving the office, at least until now, appears to have been somewhere even below “decency” and “empathy” on Trump’s list of things to have while president. His whole campaign was practically about touting all the ways in which he would turn the presidency upside-down.
Now, however, Trump feels cornered, and like a feral racoon having a standoff with an angry broom-wielding soccer dad in the garage, Trump is ready to do anything to survive — even if it means doing his job.
What I’m referring to is this: Trump went on Fox News on Friday and hinted that he would invoke executive privilege to stop former National Security Advisor John Bolton from testifying to the Senate. Reverting to type, Trump (1) lied about being “okay” with Bolton testifying, and (2) immediately gave a stupid answer as to why he absolutely can’t let Bolton testify, namely “for the sake of the office.” Sure.
To be fair, invoking executive privilege like this would not be something new. And I don’t mean that it wouldn’t be new for Trump — Presidents Obama and Bush (Dubya) are on the record as having invoked executive privilege like this; indeed tactfully doing so is part of the job. The idea, or rather the argument that the administrations tend to use, is simple: privileged information the president touches and deals with often spills over into his advisors and close associates, and thus because the president can keep quiet about this sort of information, so must those who are sufficiently close to him and it.
Invoking it is hypocritical and it shows his desperation to prevent Bolton from testifying. It’s unclear whether Bolton actually has useful information beyond what his subordinates have already testified to, but of course Trump trying to stop him sure makes it seem like he does. As tensions further ratchet between Republican senators and Trump, especially in light of the Iran crisis, it’s seeming more and more likely that at least some of them might join Senate Democrats in a vote to get Bolton on the stand. It’s getting close enough to election day that some Republican senators need to seriously think about what will get them reelected and not what will save Trump.