Trump nominee helped push back against Mueller probe — and he’d oversee court that will handle appeals
Greg Katsas, Trump's nominee to DC Court of Appeals (Photo: Screen capture)

When President Donald Trump needed top legal help facing special counsel Robert Mueller, he called current White House Deputy Counsel Greg Katsas. Now Katsas is being nominated to the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to a Politico report, Trump's nomination comes on the heels of Katsas' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he was asked about his involvement in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

"I have given legal advice on a few discrete legal questions arising out of the investigation," he said. "I have no knowledge of any underlying facts regarding Russian interference," Katsas told the committee.

"Can you tell us what those legal questions were?" Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked.

"I'm sorry, I cannot," Katsas said, claiming that such specific topics were confidential and covered by both attorney-client and executive privilege.

It was the very same court Katsas is appointed to that decided in 1998 that a government attorney may not invoke the attorney-client privilege, however it was in response to a grand jury questioning or "seeking information relating to the possible commission of a federal crime." Muller has impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia and there is speculation U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl Howell might oversee the case. If there are appeals, it would go to the very court Katsas would be serving on.

Similarly, the 1974 case U.S. v. Nixon decided that executive privilege gives way in a criminal investigation.

"I did not work on the dismissal of James Comey. In fact, I first learned of that dismissal when I saw it announced on television," he said.

It was the firing of Comey that ultimately led to the appointment of Mueller. However, Katsas has not been brought in for questioning by Mueller's investigators.

"I have not been interviewed by the special counsel, nor have I been asked to be interviewed," he added.

Trump used the phrase "drain the swamp" to claim that he would rid Washington of corrupt "politics as usual."

"This is why I'm proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again," Trump pledged in Wisconsin in 2016.

Trump promised to impose stronger "revolving door" rules, which basically say an official cannot leave government and then start lobbying former colleagues. That ban would also apply to senators, representatives and top staffers, under his plan. However, it never outlined what the plan would be for appointing his own insiders to cover courts that might oversee lawsuits dealing with him or his legislation.