October 3, 2019


The impeachment process is barely underway and already some constitutional norms are being trampled without a note of media notice or political concern. To wit, can a whistleblower inside the intelligence bureaucracy override a President’s right to executive privilege merely with an accusation?

That seems to be the default view among Democrats and the press as they luxuriate in news about Donald Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders. First it was the call with Ukraine’s President. Then on Monday the leak was what Mr. Trump told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Now Democrats want to see the transcripts of other phone calls with other leaders.

“This is a coverup,” declared Nancy Pelosi last week, but if that’s true it is the most incompetent coverup in presidential history. Mr. Trump can’t seem to have any conversation that doesn’t leak, in part or whole, or that can’t be demanded by Congress as if everyone in the executive branch works for the House Speaker. Mr. Trump has released the Ukraine transcript and the whistleblower complaint, and he’s still accused of a coverup.

Last week’s inquisition of acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff captures the prevailing disdain for the separation of powers when Mr. Trump is the political target. Mr. Maguire, who has an impeccable reputation, had received the whistleblower complaint as part of his duties. He then acted responsibly by seeking legal advice about whether the document was subject to executive privilege. . . .

According to the Justice Department’s analysis of the whistleblower’s complaint, there was no “crime or fraud.” But Mr. Schiff treats the whistleblower’s complaint as enough to override any claim of a President’s right to have confidential communications with foreign leaders.

The implication is that any time anyone in the bureaucracy issues a complaint against a President, Congress has the power to demand it be delivered and made public. That is already happening with the stories about Mr. Morrison. This means that no foreign leader can have the expectation that anything he tells Mr. Trump, or the next President, will be confidential. . . .

Once again we see the irony that in the rush to impeach Mr. Trump for his real or imagined violations of political norms, his opponents have no problem violating norms themselves.

Norms are for the little people.

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