News & Politics

President Trump Asserts Executive Privilege Over Unredacted Mueller Report

President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One after a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over the unredacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His action came after Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused to delay a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt. Barr had offered a less redacted report to 12 lawmakers, but only two took advantage of this offer.

Democrats have argued that even though 92 percent of the Mueller report has been made public, the remaining eight percent must be the most damning. Yet many of the public parts of the report are already embarrassing to President Donald Trump, although they show no collusion with Russia.

“The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the President’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands.”

“The Attorney General has been transparent and accommodating throughout this process, including by releasing the no-collusion, no-conspiracy, no-obstruction Mueller Report to the public and offering to testify before the Committee,” Sanders added. “These attempts to work with the Committee have been flatly rejected. They didn’t like the results of the report, and now they want a redo.”

“Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.”

Indeed, Barr formally requested that Trump assert executive privilege.

In response, Nadler condemned the assertion as a “clear escalation” and a “last-minute outburst.”

“The Department’s decision reflects President Trump’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” Nadler said in a statement. “In the coming days, I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless Administration. The Committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover up.”

If Democrats really want the entire unredacted Mueller report and are willing to face the consequences, they can impeach Trump. Short of that, there are legal restrictions concerning how much of the report can be released to the public. Seeing how Democrats have been unwilling to even look at a less-redacted version of the report, this whole battle is no more than a political stunt.

Trump is right to push back on the Democrats’ lawless demands, although there is some rightful concern that this is not the appropriate use of executive privilege. This move is effective, however. As The Washington Examiner‘s Susan Ferrechio reported, an assertion of executive privilege defends Barr from a contempt finding. The Department of Justice tends to reject prosecuting criminal contempt cases when executive privilege is invoked.

Barr has done nothing wrong in this proceeding, but Democrats have demonized him because his findings have protected President Trump. When Sanders says the Democrats want a redo of the Mueller investigation, she’s certainly on to something.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.