Constitutional Law

Trump's executive privilege bid could be hindered because of his use of campaign funds

  • Print

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump in August 2019. Photo from Shutterstock.

Former President Donald Trump’s bid to block congressional subpoenas could face a roadblock because his campaign funds were used in an effort to subvert President Joe Biden’s election victory.

That’s the conclusion of legal experts who spoke with the Washington Post.

Trump is asserting executive privilege to fight a request for presidential records sought by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

The problem, according to Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor, is that executive privilege typically protects communications involving a president’s official duties, not duties relating to personal or campaign matters.

Former Department of Justice official John Yoo agreed with Ben-Veniste’s view.

“If he acts as a president, he gets these things we talk about—executive privilege and immunity. But if he’s acting as a candidate, he’s deprived of all of those protections,” Yoo told the Washington Post.

Disagreeing is Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, who told the Washington Post that “a lot of things that are done on behalf of an incumbent president are done by campaigns.”

The Trump campaign had paid $225,000 to firms owned by lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik, former New York City police chief, who were both trying to find evidence of voter fraud, the Washington Post reported. Part of the money was used to pay for space at the Willard hotel in Washington, D.C., that was used as a “command center” to block Biden from assuming the presidency.

The House committee is seeking testimony from Kerik and Giuliani, as well as from former adviser Steve Bannon and John Eastman, a former Chapman University law professor, who wrote a memo telling then-Vice President Mike Pence how he could give Trump an election win.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.