Saturday, June 3, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He went to his golf course and mulled over whether or not to try to muzzle James Comey.

Trump, who visits Trump-branded properties every chance he gets, spent the day at the Trump National Golf Course in northern Virginia. It's not yet clear whether he played golf, as his staff--knowing that Trump resents being called a hypocrite on the subject of golf--usually goes to extraordinary lengths to conceal that for as long as possible. Today's pool reporter was consigned to a room with a view of indoor tennis courts, not the links. 

What is known is that Trump reportedly spent some time today considering whether to try to invoke executive privilege in an attempt to prevent former FBI Director James Comey from testifying before the Senate committee investigating the Trump-Russia affair. Comey is scheduled to testify this coming Thursday, and is likely to speak about Trump's attempts to have his then-national security advisor Michael Flynn shielded from an FBI investigation.

Executive privilege has only rarely been invoked. Trump's legal basis for doing so has been greatly weakened by his own public statements regarding Comey and other elements of the investigation, and it is not clear that he could prevent Comey from testifying in any event, since Comey is no longer an executive branch employee. Nevertheless, since Comey's testimony could ultimately form the backbone of criminal obstruction or impeachment charges, Trump may conclude that trying to muzzle him is necessary as the same kind of desperation tactic that firing him was in the first place.

Why does this matter?

  • As a rule, presidents invoke executive privilege to protect their employees, not protect themselves from former employees.