Important piece by my friend Philip Bobbitt on executive privilege, and the risks of taking it too far if a president is “determined to put his political survival above the security of our country.
The courts might hold that Trump’s Ukraine conversations are privileged. It would be better if they sidestepped the issue.
The public release of the note-takers’ account of President Trump’s July conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the whistleblower’s complaint that was in part triggered by that conversation has defused — for now — a showdown between Congress and the executive branch over whether such conversations are protected by executive privilege.
But the clash is not necessarily over. Defenders of the president have claimed that the whistleblower account relies on hearsay; there will surely be demands by the president’s critics to subpoena the personnel who could confirm and deny the assertions of the whistleblower. The partial transcript of the president’s conversation and the complaint implicate Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and various diplomats; doubtless there will be calls for their testimony.
What then? One resolution is for Congress to seek court enforcement of subpoenas for the relevant documents and the testimony of the various people who, according to the complaint, were witnesses to a months-long campaign to compel Ukrainian officials to provide damaging information on former vice president Joe Biden, his son and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.