Ousted White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s claims of executive privilege run counter to judicial rulings in the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon from office, MSNBC’s “All In” explained Wednesday.
“The whole understanding of executive privilege is misunderstood here,” former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks declared.
“First of all, executive privilege only counts if the president is receiving policy or political advice. It does not count if he’s talking about how to characterize an illegal meeting or how to cover-up a crime,” she continued.
“That’s the very clear holding of the tapes case in Watergate, they said that we were entitled to those tapes because the conversations were not about policy or politics — they were about crimes,” Wine-Banks reminded.
“I would imagine if this is tried in front of Mueller, that it will end up in court and the court will rule that this does not apply, that there is no executive privilege and that the witness is going to have to answer the questions,” Wine-Banks predicted.
“You’re saying given the holding in the Watergate case, that the privilege can’t be used to cover-up the possible evidence of a crime, there’s no way that that would fly with Mueller or if the courts — if Bannon were to try that with Mueller,” anchor Chris Hayes asked.
“Exactly, it is very clear in terms of a criminal case. The court said that in such a case, it is, I hate to use the word trumped but basically the criminal prosecution is more important and trumps any claim of executive privilege,” Wine-Banks replied.
“So it’s very, very clear and it doesn’t matter whether the witness is subpoenaed or comes in voluntarily…he cannot avoid answering questions, he will be in contempt either way” Wine-Banks explained.