Trump foreshadows executive privilege fight in election investigations, but won’t try to block testimony yet

Former President Trump won’t immediately try to stop several former Justice Department officials from testifying before Congress but is willing to put up a fight over executive privilege if legislators try to secure further interviews with his former aides and officials, a letter from lawyer Doug Collins reads. 

Collins said recent Department of Justice letters purporting to allow former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and five other officials to testify about their deliberations in relation to Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the presidential election are not based in law. He also threatened to sue in the future if Congress seeks more testimony than it has already requested through the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

“Please be advised that the Department’s purported waiver and authorization are unlawful, and that President Trump continues to assert that the non-public information the Committees seek is and should be protected from disclosure by executive privilege,” the letter reads. 

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“Nonetheless, to avoid further distraction and without in any way otherwise waiving the executive privilege associated with the matters the Committees are purporting to investigate, President Trump will agree not to seek judicial intervention to prevent your testimony or the testimony of the five other former department officials… so long as the Committees do not seek privileged information from any other Trump administration officials or advisors,” Collins wrote.

Collins, a former Republican representative from Georgia, has worked with the former president on election issues since last year and is now serving as his attorney. He sent the letter on Monday evening, which was first reported by Politico.

In an interview with Fox News Tuesday, Collins did not directly address why Trump’s legal team isn’t trying to block the testimony from Rosen and the five other DOJ officials if it is “unlawful.” But he railed against the DOJ waiver as “political” and said he hopes the former officials will withhold any information from Congress that would fall under executive privilege.

“This is political in the sense that you’re having the DOJ through a whole letter sent to these employees say, you know, we’ve always stood up for this right. We’ve always stood up for this privilege, except in this case and only under these terms,” Collins told Fox News Tuesday. 

“I would hope they would honor that,” Collins said when asked whether Rosen and the other officials should withhold certain deliberations from Congress. “The former president still believes those are privileged communications that are covered under executive privilege.”

Then-President Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. 

Then-President Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.  (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

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The letter from Collins could foreshadow future battles with the Jan. 6 select committee over executive privilege and testimony from his former aides and officials. The members of that committee have indicated that they wish to interview several Trump officials and to learn exactly what the former president was thinking and doing during the attack on the Capitol. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., declared that she wants to obtain “every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack.”

The DOJ officials besides Rosen who have been asked to speak to Congress are Richard P. Donoghue, Patrick Hovakimian, Byung Jin Pak, Bobby L. Christine, and Jeffrey B. Clark. 

They ranged in rank from acting deputy attorney general, which was Donoghue’s role, to U.S. attorney, which was Pak’s and Christine’s rank. Pak and Christine covered the northern and southern districts of Georgia, respectively. Clark and Hovakimian were officials at main Justice under Rosen. 

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Several of those six men were shown in documents released by the House Oversight Committee last month as on the receiving end of requests from representatives of Trump, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, that they look into claims of voter fraud or bring legal action to overturn state election results. 

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and Trump’s false claims that the presidential election was stolen have not been substantiated. 

“These documents show that President Trump tried to corrupt our nation’s chief law enforcement agency in a brazen attempt to overturn an election that he lost,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement last month. “Those who aided or witnessed President Trump’s unlawful actions must answer the committee’s questions about this attempted subversion of democracy.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the Collins letter. 

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