- President Donald Trump’s lead defence lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, doubled down on his earlier claim that the White House should get to review and edit the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference before it’s released to Congress or the public.
- Giuliani first made the claim in a September interview with INSIDER, arguing that the information in the report is all protected by executive privilege and thus needs a sign-off from the White House before the public can see it.
- On Friday, Giuliani told The Hill, “As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you – so we can correct it if they’re wrong. They’re not God, after all. They could be wrong.”
Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lead defence lawyer, is doubling down on his contention that the White House should get to review and edit the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference before it’s released to Congress or the public.
Giuliani first made the argument in an interview with INSIDER in September. As prosecutors put together the report, Trump’s current and former lawyers said the information contained in it is protected by executive privilege.
For that reason, they said the White House needs to sign off on the report’s final version in the event that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who is overseeing Mueller – chooses to release it to Congress or the public.
Giuliani told INSIDER that Trump’s team would waive executive privilege if “we had an adequate opportunity to review the report before it was released to the public; if we felt that – even if we disagreed with its findings – it was fair; and if we had the chance to release a rebuttal report simultaneously that addresses all of Mueller’s allegations.”
But as of now, he said, the White House “reserves its privilege.” He added that Trump’s legal team had a commitment to that effect from Mueller. When he was asked whether Mueller agreed to allow Trump’s team to review a draft of the report before it is released, Giuliani said he wasn’t sure if the two sides had reached a consensus on that.
Giuliani doubled down on his argument in an interview with The Hill on Friday.
“As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you – so we can correct it if they’re wrong,” Giuliani told the outlet. “They’re not God, after all. They could be wrong.”
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, told INSIDER earlier that while the White House could theoretically claim that certain information in a report from Mueller is protected by executive privilege, a court would most likely strike that argument down.
“What the White House would essentially be saying then is that a prosecutor can obtain information from the president or the White House, but they can’t do anything with it,” Mariotti said. “That’s a very weak argument.”
Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, said there were three main reasons why broadly asserting executive privilege would be “a hard argument to make legally, and a foolish one to make politically.”
In the political realm, he said that if the White House tries to “start redacting the report before it even gets to Congress, which could weigh impeachment proceedings, that’s not going to fly.”
Legally, he said that based on his interpretation, the independent counsel is not part of the executive branch even though he is supervised by the Department of Justice.
“He’s a separate entity,” Cramer said of Mueller. “The point of an independent counsel is to have an independent voice determine what happened. So, asserting privilege over material he’s gathered seems to defeat the point of having an independent reviewer in the first place.”
Trump may have also limited himself when it comes information related to some of the most pivotal events in the obstruction inquiry – for instance, the firing of then FBI director James Comey.
Cramer said Trump “eviscerated” any privilege assertion when he tweeted about Comey after ousting him.
“It’s like attorney-client privilege,” Cramer said. “You don’t have attorney-client privilege once you bring a third person into the room. And Trump didn’t bring a third person in, he brought the entire American public into the room when he tweeted about why he fired Comey and talked about it to Lester Holt.”
The bottom line, he said, is that for the White House to assert executive privilege over information in Mueller’s report, “it would have to be something that Trump didn’t tweet or talk about. And I don’t think there’s much left in that universe.”
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