Donald Trump Jr. was interviewed by the members of the House Intelligence Commitee behind closed doors on Wednesday as part of their Russia probe, but they couldn't get much out of him, due in part to what critics slammed as his "bogus" assertion of attorney-client privilege.
"I don't believe you can shield communications between individuals merely by having an attorney present That's not the purpose of attorney-client privilege."
—Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
The "privilege" was invoked when lawmakers probed a meeting Trump Jr. held at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer in June of 2016 after being promised "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. When asked about a conversation he had with President Donald Trump about the meeting this past summer, Trump Jr. claimed that, because a lawyer was present during their phone call, he did not have to divulge the details.
As legal experts, journalists, and House Democrats were quick to point out, "That's not how it works."
Absurd & duplicitous to assert attorney-client privilege in order to not answer questions. https://t.co/xFJK96jEr5
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) December 7, 2017
Don Jr. invoked attorney-client privilege to avoid disclosing conversations with his father, even though neither is a lawyer. Admittedly, it's been a while since I took the bar exam, but I'm fairly sure this isn't how it works. https://t.co/33XiYBOqHl
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) December 7, 2017
4/ In this instance, both Trump and Trump Jr. are subjects of the same investigation, and any legal advice they received on these topics would potentially implicate the other person. I doubt any court would conclude this conversation was privileged.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 7, 2017
2/2 Neither Trump is a lawyer. Jr claims Attorney Client privilege lets him avoid answering because there were lawyers present when he talked with his Dad. But, if there’s anyone other than you & your lawyer in the room, the privilege doesn’t apply. Bless Jr’s heart.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 7, 2017
The fact that there are lawyers on Twitter means all your tweets are protected by attorney-client privilege.
*DISCLAIMER: This is bad advice. Don't take it. Also, I am not your lawyer. Don't sue me for malpractice.*
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) December 7, 2017
"I don't believe you can shield communications between individuals merely by having an attorney present," argued Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). "That's not the purpose of attorney-client privilege."
Schiff added that "discussion revolves around a pivotal meeting" and is "a central issue that we need to fully investigate."
"We will be following up with his counsel," Schiff concluded.
When Trump Jr. wasn't attempting to dodge questions by invoking non-existent privileges, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said he was "pretty non-responsive" and appeared to be hampered by "a very serious case of amnesia," claiming to not recall events that took place in the very recent past.
"He was by his father's side; he was campaigning with his father. And you get the impression in listening to him that he didn’t spend much time talking to his father," Speier added. "Lots of people don’t recall things. But, I would say that there are elements of this where he was very clear and knew precisely what had happened, and then other circumstances he didn't at all."