President Donald Trump, accompanied by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Damaging New Leaks Undermine the President’s Attorney-Client Privilege

Whoever is leaking in the White House, and there is some interesting sourcing in this Washington Post story is putting the President and his team in legal jeopardy.

To understand why, we need to revisit something I wrote on July 12th about the White House leakers. At the time, they leaked the story that the President’s staff had composed the statement about Donald Trump, Jr. aboard Air Force One then got the President’s approval. In that story, they made clear it was White House staff and that President Trump’s lawyers were not consulted. As a result, none of them can claim attorney-client privilege if they want to object to divulging the contents of their conversations.

But the latest story is an even bigger bombshell. Now the story is that President Trump himself authored the statement while aboard Air Force One and that the lawyers were actually cut out of the process. Had the President consulted with his lawyers he could potentially claim attorney-client privilege regarding shaping the statement and the conversations related thereto. This new leak takes that away, as it does with the rest of the staff.

With the Mueller team now exploring that meeting, they will want to know about the statement from Donald Trump, Jr. This leak says the President wrote it and the lawyers did not know. That will open a line of questions that would not have been available if the lawyers were present.

There is also this interesting sourcing bit:

Although misleading the public or the news media is not a crime, advisers to Trump and his family told The Washington Post that they fear any indication that Trump was seeking to hide information about contacts between his campaign and Russians almost inevitably would draw additional scrutiny from Mueller.

So family advisers are also leaking? It sounds more and more like this must be a Kushner thing given the way the story is written, but we have to remember the plane was fully stocked with White House staff. The only White House senior staff not on the plane were Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway.

CNN provided the manifest for the trip. Aboard Air Force One were:

  • Melania Trump — first lady
  • Reince Priebus — White House chief of staff
  • Stephen Miller — senior policy adviser
  • Jared Kushner — senior adviser, foreign policy point man and Trump’s son-in-law
  • Steve Bannon — chief White House strategist
  • Ivanka Trump — adviser to the President and Trump’s daughter
  • McMaster — national security adviser
  • Sean Spicer — White House press secretary
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders — deputy press secretary
  • Michael Anton — National Security Council spokesman
  • Hope Hicks — White House director of strategic communications
  • Gary Cohn — National Economic Council director
  • Dina Powell — deputy national security adviser
  • Josh Raffel — communications adviser

Trump supporters are already pointing the finger at Priebus and Spicer for the leaks, but considering Spicer was at the White House in the Press Secretary’s office while Mooch was being fired, that seems unlikely. It also seems unlikely Priebus would leak because he is smart enough to know how quickly he would be blamed for any leaks.


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Erick Erickson

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