During his opening remarks in the Senate impeachment trial, President Donald Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow quoted Democrats’ own words against them. He condemned the House Democrats’ rush to impeach Trump, adding an article of impeachment for “Obstruction of Congress” rather than litigating a matter of executive privilege in court. He quoted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), each of whom defended Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder when he was held in contempt of Congress in 2012.
“Mr. Schiff did say the courts don’t really have a role in this. Executive privilege? Why would that matter? It matters because it’s based in the Constitution of the United States,” Sekulow said. “The president’s opponents in their rush to impeach have refused to wait for judicial review.”
He quoted law professor Jonathan Turley, who warned, “I can’t emphasize this enough…if you impeach a president — if you make a high crime and misdemeanor of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power. You’re doing precisely what you’re criticizing the president for doing.”
“On June 28, 2012, Eric Holder became the first attorney general to be held in both civil and criminal contempt. Why? Because President Obama asserted executive privilege,” Sekulow noted.
Citing a 2012 op-ed Schiff wrote in Politico, Trump’s lawyer said, “With respect to the Holder contempt proceedings, Mr. [impeachment] Manager Schiff wrote, ‘the White House assertion [of privilege] is backed by decades of precedent that has recognized the need for the president and his senior advisors to receive candid advice and information from their top aides.”
“Indeed that’s correct, not because manager Schiff said it, but because the Constitution requires it,” Sekulow added. “Mr. Manager Nadler said that the effort to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to comply with various subpoenas was ‘politically motivated,’ and Speaker Pelosi called the Holder matter ‘little more than a witch hunt.'”
“But to say that the courts have no role, the rush to impeachment, to not wait for a decision of the court on an issue as important as executive privilege, as if executive privilege hasn’t been utilized by presidents since our founding. This is not some new concept,” Trump’s lawyer said. “The president’s opponents in their rush to impeach and refuse to wait for complete judicial review, that was their choice.”
Democrats defended Obama’s executive privilege, but they’re impeaching Trump when he exercises his.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.