In a discussion Wednesday night, CNN panelists — including a congressman who was at Donald Trump Jr.’s House Intelligence Committee earlier in the day — explained why the junior Trump’s invocation of “attorney-client privilege” isn’t legally sound.
“This is not a privilege in the law,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) told host Anderson Cooper. “If it was, essentially every defendant in America could call into their attorney’s office, an alibi witness, and talk to them directly to get their stories straight and a prosecutor would never be able to penetrate that. That’s not how it works.”
The California congressman went on to say that he hopes the Republicans who control the committee either call Trump Jr. back or subpoena him because, as many associated with President Donald Trump have exhibited in the past, his hand may need to be forced. He also said Republicans on the committee could have told Trump Jr. that he’d need to come back under a subpoena, but didn’t.
“I believe the Republicans should start putting these witnesses under subpoena and then when they assert bogus privileges compel them to testify,” Swalwell continued, “and I think we’ll get to the truth.”
The panel then shifted to Michael Zeldin, who formerly served as special counsel Robert Mueller’s Justice Department special assistant. When asked by Cooper if Trump Jr.’s invocation of attorney-client privilege “had any legal merit,” Zeldin answered unequivocally that it has “none whatsoever.”
If that privilege existed, it would “probably be waived” because, as Zeldin noted, “there were third parties present” and as Trump Jr. himself asserted, he and his lawyer spoke through White House senior adviser Hope Hicks as an intermediary to the president.
“There’s nothing that’s attorney-client privilege protectable in that chain,” the former federal prosecutor.
“Maybe the assertion of attorney-client privilege here is to buy time to get their story straight,” Zeldin said later in the segment, “which is in and of itself very problematic and I don’t think Mueller will find that availing.”
Cooper later asked Zeldin if Mueller would permit the attorney-client privilege claim, to which the former prosecutor, the congressman and co-panelist Gloria Borger all laughed. He then said that it’s possible Mueller could use that claim to add to obstruction of justice charges brought against Trump Jr. and his father.
You can watch the segment on Trump Jr.’s bizarre privilege invocation below, via CNN.