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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Democrats want former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in a public hearing about President Donald Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice, and the administration may be completely unable to stop it.

McGahn, one of the most prominent figures in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which outlines an exhaustive case that Trump obstructed justice on numerous occasions, has already been subpoenaed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. According to a new report from the Washington Post, the White House wants to exert executive privilege to stop the testimony.

If McGahn were to recount what he told Mueller as it is reflected in the report, it would be a damning spectacle for the presidency.

And the attempts to invoke executive privilege may be doomed.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney noted that, based on Trump’s previous remarks about the Mueller report, Attorney General Bill Bar said the White House has already effectively waived executive privilege on McGahn’s testimony.

“Going to be hard to put that genie back in the bottle,” he said.

Cheney also said that House Judiciary Committee members believe think that Trump waived executive privilege by allowing McGahn and others to testify in the first place. This claim, though, is arguably less persuasive. Since Mueller was an employee of the Justice Department, which is part of the executive branch, there could be a credible argument that anything said to him still remains within the purview of the executive privilege. However, the fact that Mueller’s report has since been made public, including many citations of McGahn’s testimony, does suggest that the privilege opportunity has expired.

George Conway, a prominent conservative lawyer and husband to Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, argued that, indeed, Trump had already waived privilege.

“So these aides were allowed to speak to Mueller for a purpose other than providing advice to the president or carrying out sensitive foreign-relations missions—the two principal purposes of executive privilege—and then a report summarizing what they told Mueller was … released to the public. Any executive privilege has been waived,” he tweeted. “Twice.”

“Time to find out how much of a patriot McGahn’s actually wants to be,” said former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller. “The WH initially tried to block Sally Yates from testifying too. If McGahn wants to do it, they can’t stop him.”

The Post reported of McGahn:

“He’s not eager to testify. He’s not reluctant. He got a subpoena. It compels him to testify. But there are some countervailing legal reasons that might prevent that,” said one person close to McGahn, who requested anonymity to describe private discussions. “He doesn’t want to be in contempt of Congress nor does he want to be in contempt of his ethical obligations and legal obligations as a former White House official.”

CNN legal analyst Ross Garber suggested that the White House may be successful in using privilege to block McGahn’s testimony. But that approach could raise its own perils.

“Invoking impeachment power might strengthen the House’s claimed need for and entitlement to the testimony,” Garber tweeted.

So if the White House is successful in advancing a dubious claim of privilege, it might actually accelerate the House’s drive to begin formal impeachment proceedings.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.