House Democrats planning to call ‘star witnesses’ Trump can’t block by asserting executive privilege

In order to circumvent President Donald Trump’s refusal to let former administration officials testify before Congress, House Democrats are drawing up a list of alternative “star witnesses” that the White House cannot block by claiming executive privilege, according to Politico:

Key lawmakers tell POLITICO they hope to make an end run around Trump’s executive privilege assertions by expanding their circle of testimony targets to people outside government who nonetheless had starring roles in Robert Mueller’s final report. That includes presidential confidants like former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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Other Russia-related figures who never served in Trump’s administration and would make for prime congressional witnesses include Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the former top campaign officials who both pleaded guilty and faced extensive questioning by federal prosecutors working on the Mueller probe.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, noted:

“These people could be called without any reasonable shred of a claim of executive privilege.”

But the White House appears to already be laying the foundation for a more expansive claim of executive privilege that would theoretically apply to even those who didn’t actually serve in the administration:

The president’s lawyers, in an unrelated matter, appeared to lay the groundwork for an effort to block even outside advisers from speaking to Congress about their interactions with Trump and his inner circle by arguing that even some people who don’t work for the White House can be subject to claims of executive privilege.

“The Executive Branch’s confidentiality interests are not limited solely to communications directly involving the President and other Executive Branch officials,” Michael Purpura, a deputy White House counsel, wrote in a letter to the House Oversight Committee last month. “Rather, a President and his senior advisers must frequently consult with individuals outside of the Executive Branch, and those communications are also subject to protection.”

John Q. Barrett, a St. John’s University law professor, says he agrees that congressional Democrats do need to expand their witness list and have public hearings:

“The people who were actors in the conduct are available. They’re fully and cleanly available to the Congress.

“Go to homes and ring doorbells. Ask. You never know who’s found Jesus, who’s got qualms, who recognizes criminality, who’s broken with the authority of the president to command their life. Maybe that springs some information.”

If Trump tries to block even those who didn’t work in the White House from testifying, that alone will be partial proof that he’s trying to hide things he knows could incriminate him and lead to his impeachment.

Featured Image Via the BBC