Appearing on MSNBC on Saturday morning, former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne brushed aside Donald Trump’s assertion that he could bar former national security adviser John Bolton from testifying before Congress by claiming executive privilege.
Speaking with host Geoff Bennett, Alksne pointed out that invoking executive privilege is not all-encompassing when it comes to criminal testimony.
“You heard President Trump say if Bolton is allowed to testify, he’d invoke executive privilege,” Benett began. “That’s not how executive privilege works. Typically what happens is the witness at least shows up, and then if there’s specific questions he or she can’t answer, then you invoke executive privilege. Explain this for us.”
“Well, the first thing we know is that all of the talk that the president had for so long about he’d love to have Bolton testify — that was not true, that was a lie, number one,” Alksne replied. “Number two, the White House has used this notion of executive privilege or some kind of absolute immunity to try to get people not to come at all, not to even sit in the chair and have to face the questions. The idea with executive privilege is we want to protect important discussions between members of the executive about matters of policy so that a person would come, sit in the chair, be asked a question. If it had to do with a real policy issue, then the question could be blocked.”
“But there are limits to executive privilege,” she continued. “For instance, you can’t use executive privilege to cover up a crime, and what we have here is extortion, and so executive privilege does not apply to the questions about the Ukraine extortion.”
“It doesn’t also apply to people who are outside the executive branch, so conversations with [Rudy] Giuliani, conversations he had with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, what they were going to do to extort Zelensky, none of that is covered by executive privilege,” she added.