Fox News host Jeanine Pirro orchestrated campaign payments for 'command centers' at DC hotels that could blow up Donald Trump's executive privilege claims.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and the city's former police chief Bernie Kerik had been paying for hotel rooms and travel related to their efforts to overturn Trump's election loss, but the pair grew concerned by early December as the bills piled up, reported the Washington Post.
"How do I know I'm gonna get my money back?" Kerik thought at the time, as he recently told the newspaper.
Kerik knew that Giuliani hadn't been reimbursed for his expenses or paid for his services, but their friend Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host beloved by the twice-impeached one-term president, called Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and asked her to help them out.
McDaniel spoke to Kerik by phone but refused to give him money, and instead recommended that he ask the Trump campaign to reimburse his expenses, according to the former police chief and a GOP official.
The campaign cut its first check to Kerik in mid-December with Trump's approval, according to a former senior campaign official, and eventually paid more than $225,000 for hotel rooms and suites at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., that served as a "command center" for efforts to overturn the election results ahead of Jan. 6 riots.
Those payments, according to legal experts, could undermine Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents and testimony related to the U.S. Capitol riots sought by the House select committee investigating the insurrection.
"[This] further undermines a wildly broad assertion of executive privilege," said Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor. "Executive privilege is typically limited to the protection of communications involving a president's official duties — not to those relating to personal or political campaign matters."
Former Justice Department official John Yoo, who advised former vice president Mike Pence's staff that there was no legal basis to deny the certification of Joe Biden's election win, agreed that the payments could upend Trump's defense.
"If he acts as a president, he gets these things we talk about — executive privilege and immunity," Yoo said. "But if he's acting as a candidate, he's deprived of all of those protections."
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