Former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste on Wednesday spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon and legal analyst Laura Coates, describing Donald Trump Jr.’s latest invocation of attorney-client privilege as “bogus.”
Rep. Eric Swalwall, a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters that Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about his discussions with Donald Trump regarding his response to reports that revealed a clandestine June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. According to Swalwell, Trump Jr. claimed attorney-client privilege protected the communications with his father.
“It’s kind of a absurd principal,” Coates explained to Lemon. “It would essentially say that because a lawyer is in the room with you, the attorney-client privilege attaches. Here in Washington, D.C., you throw a rock, you're going to hit about 42 attorneys. In fact, our conversation right now would be attorney-client privilege, if that was the only requirement you had.”
Ben-Veniste noted Trump Jr.’s claim “was not a spur-of-the-moment invocation.”
“Donald Jr. must have anticipated with his attorneys that he would be asked this question,” he explained.
“Attorney-client privilege only applies when an individual is seeking advice from an attorney and is providing information in order for the attorney to provide legal advice,” Ben-Veniste continued. “We don't know who these lawyers are—I bet you they were not Donald Trump's attorneys, and probably not personal attorneys for his father. A conversation with Hope Hicks wouldn't be privileged because she wasn't acting in an attorney capacity. So this is bogus and just one more distraction. He’ll have to come back, I'm sure, and clarify whether he's invoking a Fifth Amendment privilege which is his privilege to do, or some other valid privilege.”