On Friday, a federal judge ordered former President Donald Trump’s former aides to testify before a grand jury investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, rebuffing Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
Special counsel Jack Smith sought testimony from former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, his former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, former top aide Stephen Miller, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, former top DHS official Ken Cuccinelli, and former aides Nick Luna and John McEntee. Trump’s legal team tried to block his former officials from having to testify, arguing that his executive privilege as president extended to private communications he had with aides.
Judge Beryl Howell rejected the Trump team’s assertions in a sealed ruling last week, meaning the former officials will have to testify.
“The DOJ is continuously stepping far outside the standard norms in attempting to destroy the long accepted, long held, Constitutionally based standards of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege,” a Trump spokesperson said in a statement.
“There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump. The deranged Democrats and their comrades in the mainstream media are corrupting the legal process and weaponizing the justice system in order to manipulate public opinion, because they are clearly losing the political battle.”
The existence of the sealed ruling was first reported by ABC News, which also added that Trump is likely to appeal it.
While some of the high-profile former officials have already appeared before the grand jury, they reportedly didn’t answer some questions related to communications with the former president; due to last week’s ruling, they are now obligated to give additional testimony.
Meadows already handed over thousands of text messages to the House select panel that investigated January 6, yet refused to be interviewed by the committee. He also appeared before a separate grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia investigating the efforts to reverse the 2020 election results in the state.
This ruling is the second time Judge Howell rejected the Trump team’s legal arguments in the past week. On Wednesday, in a separate case involving the possible mishandling of classified documents, Judge Howell also ruled that Trump’s defense attorney, Evan Corcoran, has to testify before a grand jury due to the crime-fraud exception, which states that attorney-client privilege cannot apply when a client uses a lawyer to further a crime. Jack Smith is also leading this criminal investigation.
In response, a Trump spokesperson said the ruling was “violation of due process,” adding, “Whenever prosecutors target the attorneys, that’s usually a good indication their underlying case is very weak. If they had a real case, they wouldn’t need to play corrupt games with the Constitution. Every American has the right to consult with counsel and have candid discussions – this promotes adherence to the law.”
As the probe into the 2020 election simmers, Trump will host his first 2024 presidential campaign rally in Waco, Texas on Saturday.