In an interview broadcast on Saturday, President Donald Trump suggested that he would block his former national security adviser, John Bolton, from testifying in the Senate’s impeachment trial. Trump, he told Fox News, would block Bolton from testifying “for the sake of the office,” invoking executive privilege.
Trump’s argument does not hold water, according to former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne, who poked holes in the president’s plan to block the testimony during an appearance on MSNBC, per Raw Story.
Speaking with host Geoff Bennett, Alksne explained that Trump’s vow to block Bolton not only suggests that the president is concerned about what his former adviser might tell Congress, but also reveals that the White House has a warped understanding of executive privilege.
The Trump White House, according to Alksne, “has used this notion of executive privilege or some kind of absolute immunity to try to get people not to come at all, not to even sit in the chair and have to face the questions.”
“The idea with executive privilege is we want to protect important discussions between members of the executive about matters of policy so that a person would come, sit in the chair, be asked a question,” the former federal prosecutor said, explaining that there are “limits” to executive privilege.
According to Alksne, a president cannot use executive privilege to “cover up a crime,” which means that Trump cannot use it to protect himself from Democratic accusations of extortion. Furthermore, the legal expert said, executive privilege does not apply to “people who are outside the executive branch,” which means that individuals such as the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, cannot be protected by it.
It remains to be seen whether Bolton will testify or not, but the former high-ranking White House official has indicated that he would be willing to do so. Earlier this week, Bolton said that he is “prepared to testify” in the Senate’s impeachment trial, stating that he wants to meet his “obligations,” both as a citizen and as a former government official.
According to reports, Bolton had a “front-row seat” to Trump’s dealings with the Ukrainian government, which are at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment articles. The articles allege that Trump abused the power of his office to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals.
Trump, Democrats claim, withdrew military aid from Ukraine in order to force its authorities to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the leading Democratic White House hopefuls.