Former White House counsel John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate scandal, said Wednesday on CNN that there was a serious flaw in the attempt to prevent longtime Trump confidant Hope Hicks from testifying to Congress.
White House lawyers have asserted that Hicks has absolute immunity and is not legally required to testify about her time as Trump's director of communications. Hicks testified Wednesday during a closed-door hearing before the House Judiciary Committee — where she reportedly refused to answer questions about her White House job.
"Privilege is not being asserted here. Instead, the White House says that Hicks has absolute immunity regarding the time that she spent at 1600 Pennsylvania. Does absolute immunity even exist? And if so, can you explain to me the difference between the two?" CNN host Brooke Baldwin asked Dean.
"There is no such thing as absolute immunity for anybody to appear before Congress," he replied. "When the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Nixon case, they absolutely said that there was no absolute privilege, rather it had to be weighed in each instance as to the needs for those who are asking for the information and the person who’s resisting giving the information."
"Absolute privileges are very rare in the law. And they’re always this balancing process. This total immunity is part of the so-called executive theory of unitary executive theory that will theoretically make the person immune to Congress. And that just doesn’t play in our system."
"What about, let’s keep this in mind that Hope Hicks, unlike so many current and former White House aides, she has testified before Congress, she did speak with Mueller, she has turned over documents. So what do you make of that?" Baldwin asked.
"I understand she didn’t give very much testimony when she appeared and she claimed some sort of privilege then as well. So we don't have that transcript either," Dean said.
"But the fact that she went to Mueller -- the grand jury has really established its ability to pierce presidential privilege. That happened in U.S. versus Nixon. But the court spoke in broader terms generally. While we've never had a case directly resolving the powers of Congress versus the power of the president over information, I think that's where Trump wants to go. He wants to stall as long as he can. There’s nothing -- this is just clearly, as many members of Congress are calling it, a cover up we're watching."