Over a week ago, there was a pretty remarkable piece of reporting — one (or both) of Rudy Giuliani’s comically guilty looking Ukrainian associates claimed to share “executive privilege” with President Donald Trump with respect to the federal criminal charges brought against them:  

One of the two indicted associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on Wednesday tied the case to the president himself, saying that some of the evidence gathered in the campaign-finance investigation could be subject to executive privilege.

The unusual argument was raised by a defense lawyer in federal court in Manhattan as the two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, pleaded not guilty to federal charges that they had made illegal campaign contributions to political candidates in the United States in exchange for potential influence.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have become unexpected figures in the events at the heart of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, having played a role in helping Mr. Giuliani’s efforts on behalf of President Trump to dig up information in Ukraine that could damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a prospective Democratic challenger.

Mr. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing but has acknowledged that he and the two men worked with officials in Ukraine to collect damaging information about the American ambassador to Ukraine and other targets of Mr. Trump and his allies, including Mr. Biden and his younger son, Hunter.

Edward B. MacMahon Jr., a lawyer for Mr. Parnas, told the judge in the case that the potential for the White House to invoke executive privilege stemmed from the fact that Mr. Parnas had used Mr. Giuliani as his own lawyer at the same time Mr. Giuliani was working as Mr. Trump’s lawyer.

While this story should have been a blockbuster reveal, of tantalizing proportions, it was not even the first time this was reported.  Instead, a week or two earlier John Dowd, the attorney for both men, informed the House impeachment investigators that both Giuliani associates may claim “executive privilege” in the impeachment proceeding as well — and for the most part the press coverage only concerned Mr. Dowd’s embarrassing use of the “Comic Sans” font for his letter.

All this raises the common sense question: why has Donald Trump not been asked to disavow this incredible and (should be) damning invocation of “executive privilege” by two criminally indicted Ukrainians?

In a sane world, and I will be charitable on this timeline, the White House should have had a statement out rejecting any claim of executive privilege within one, maybe two, hours of this story breaking.  In addition, no mere press release would suffice — there would need to be a formal DOJ filing in the criminal court case rejecting any executive privilege argument. 

But forget the White House’s ethics, why hasn’t the press asked this question and confronted Trump with this obvious story?  Or for that matter, where are the Democrats?!?

This isn’t some tabloid detail randomly raised in a sordid crime story.  No.  The attorney, John Dowd, who has repeatedly raised “executive privilege,” is Donald Trump’s former lawyer who battled the Mueller investigation.  The “privilege claim,” such as it is, is based entirely on the relationship with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s so-called “personal attorney” — paid by unknown sources.  The White House connections, and (unchallenged) White House silence, show that this is a deliberate gambit (or at least an embarrassing scandal).

But nothing is being said about it . . . . 

Look, I have been pretty impressed by the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in recent weeks.  Seriously, and thank god.  But . . .  I can’t shake the nagging feeling that there remains some sort of deeply stupid Democratic impulse to pull their punches, worry about this or that, artificially limit their arguments or calendar, and just generally pull up short.  The above is a perfect example.  Push this issue; force the White House to react; press your advantage; investigate things that rightly demand investigation. 

I mean how simple is this question: do you agree that these two indicted guys (and flash the mug shots) possess a possible claim of executive privilege?  If so, how??  Let them answer; don’t let them skate. Most of all, don’t do nothing.

  • November 2, 2019