When Donald Trump woke up yesterday morning and screamed that “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” on Twitter, opinions were divided as to whether he truly didn’t understand that attorney-client privilege doesn’t extend to alleged criminal conspiracies between him and his lawyer, or whether he knew otherwise and he was simply trying to fool his base into believing it. But when you combine the outburst with Trump’s other big attorney-client privilege problem, it becomes more clear what’s going on here.
Michael Cohen is Donald Trump’s attorney. That means the communications between Trump and Cohen that were seized from the raid can only be admitted as evidence if they reveal that Trump and Cohen conspired to commit a crime together. The communication can not be used if they merely reveal that Trump has confessed his crimes to Cohen. So Trump’s attorney-client privilege with Cohen is still alive and well, no matter what Trump tweets. But Trump’s attorney-client privilege with another one of his attorneys is in fact dead, and has been from the start.
Trump only has one attorney representing him in the Trump-Russia scandal: Jay Sekulow. The other attorney who has been doing Trump’s bidding in the scandal, Ty Cobb, is technically on the White House payroll. We don’t know for sure why Trump did this, but it was probably to save money. The trouble: because Cobb represents the White House and not Trump, there is no attorney-client privilege between Cobb and Trump, and there never has been. If Trump has admitted his crimes to Cobb in his typical motormouth fashion, Cobb is legally required to testify about it for Robert Mueller, or else Cobb could go to prison.
For that matter, there is no attorney-client privilege between Donald Trump and White House Counsel Don McGahn either, even as Trump has routinely used McGahn to do his bidding. It appears Trump truly doesn’t understand what attorney-client privilege is or how it works, and the people around him either haven’t properly explained it to him, or the message hasn’t gotten through. So when Trump posted the stunned tweet about the Michael Cohen raid, it’s the latest evidence that he doesn’t even grasp the basics of how he’s supposed to be defending himself. He doesn’t even understand that Ty Cobb isn’t his lawyer. Click here to support Palmer Report.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report