Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

President Donald Trump's legal team may assert executive privilege in an effort to block the public release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report detailing his findings on the Russia investigation. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

With Mueller Report Expected Soon, Trump Team May Claim Executive Privilege to Block Public Release

While critics called such a move "absurd," they also warned it could tie up the special counsel's report in court for months or even years

Jessica Corbett

With Special Counsel Robert Mueller expected to put out a report detailing his findings from the ongoing probe into alleged Russian election interference and any collusion or obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump's campaign or administration as early as next month, the president's legal team may move to block parts of it from Congress and the public on the grounds of executive privilege.

In a report published Monday by Bloomberg News, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said that in terms of asserting executive privilege, "We will look at it and see if the president thinks there is a valid claim and if there is, do we want to make it." He added: "We reserve the right. We don't know if we have to, but we haven't waived it."

Giuliani also confirmed that the president's legal team is willing to go to court over any parts of the report Trump believes should be withheld. Such a battle, should one occur, is expected to advance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is a real threat," responded Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent. "It's another reason Dems taking the House was so important," given that they "can subpoena the findings, and they'd probably prevail in court."

While the Democrats who took control of the U.S. House last week plan to demand access to the report and fight to publicly release it, the regulation authorizing a special counsel does not require that Mueller disclose his findings to federal lawmakers or the public.

However, in the event of Trump trying to use executive privilege, former President Richard Nixon's White House counsel John Dean noted that federal lawmakers could call Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill, and "Trump can't stop Mueller from going to Congress and talking about everything that's in his report."

Although Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, posited that any effort by Trump's team to block the disclosure of Mueller's findings "will not hold up in court" because "executive privilege can always be pierced by a specific and legitimate criminal or congressional inquiry," as Bloomberg explained:

The White House voluntarily turned over tens of thousands of pages of records to Mueller's investigators, avoiding a subpoena fight with the special prosecutor.

The lawyers believe that preserved the president's option to assert later that the information can't be shared outside of the executive branch. Had Mueller subpoenaed the documents and won, the White House would have lost the ability to block their public release.

Dean called claiming executive privilege after turning over documents "absurd," but he also warned that the "stalling tactic" could "tie it up in the lower courts for a couple of years."

Trump and his attorneys aren't the only barriers to publicly revealing Mueller's findings though. Intelligence agencies will likely move to redact certain classified information included in it, Bloomberg pointed out, and "Justice Department lawyers also are required to withhold information that pertains to grand jury proceedings or ongoing sensitive law enforcement operations."

The president's legal team, meanwhile, is supposedly working on its own report "to counter any findings that paint Trump in a negative light."

Mueller, for his part, is still receiving information regarding the probe. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the new House Intelligence Committee chairman, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" on Sunday that he hopes to turn over the panel's interviews quickly, pointing to concerns about potential perjury for "multiple witnesses," whom he declined to name.

"We hope, as one of our first acts, to make the transcripts of our witnesses fully available to special counsel for any purpose, including the bringing of perjury charges if necessary against any of the witnesses," Schiff said. "I think Bob Mueller, by virtue of the fact that he has been able to conduct this investigation using tools that we didn't have in our committee, meaning compulsion, is in a better position to determine, OK, who was telling the truth, who wasn't, and who could I make a case against in terms of perjury?"

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

After Kids Killed in Texas, Dems Declare 'Pass Gun Safety Legislation Now'

"Congress has a moral responsibility to end gun violence now," said Sen. Ed Markey. "To those who refuse to act, there are no excuses. Only complicity and shame."

Jessica Corbett ·

At Least 19 Children, 2 Adults Killed in Texas Elementary School Shooting

"This has become part of who we are as a country," said Julián Castro. "The free availability of guns has not made us safer in the United States or here in the state of Texas."

Brett Wilkins ·

House Dems to Pelosi: Hold Vote for Bill Expanding Social Security

"It is Congress' responsibility to ensure that Social Security's benefits are protected and improved," says a letter to the speaker. "It's time we deliver."

Jessica Corbett ·

Two Years After George Floyd Murder, Biden to Issue Executive Order on Police Reform

"The entire culture and mentality needs to change to bring these words to life, and to save lives," said one civil liberties advocate.

Julia Conley ·

'Wholesale Fraud' in Michigan Governor Race Could Disqualify GOP Candidates

"It looks like the Republican clown car may be losing a few occupants."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo