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Perspective: The truth about executive privilege

Suzy Brooks

Let us begin the new year with a renewed commitment to truth. Here's a start. Donald Trump cannot claim executive privilege. Further, if Trump cannot claim privilege then certainly Mark Meadows cannot.

First, Trump. He cannot claim executive privilege because he is no longer the executive. The privilege inheres in the office, not the officeholder. In order to wield executive privilege, one has to be the executive.

Trump is not; he retains no residual executive authority. He does not even continue to receive confidential security briefings. President Biden is the only person who could exert privilege over the subjects at issue, and he has demurred. It has been duly noted that "We only have one President at a time."

Former chief of staff Mark Meadows cannot exert executive privilege because he is not, and never has been, the executive. Only the President, the current President, can exert privilege. No subordinate has any such authority. We must note also that Meadows has revealed already information and even published a book on many of the subjects at issue. Meadows cannot assert privilege on his own. To do so would indeed constitute "contempt of Congress."

Executive privilege enables Presidents to preserve the confidentiality of the advice of subordinates on sensitive matters. An essential power, it is nonetheless difficult to define and demarcate. Thanks to the false assertions of Trump and Meadows, however, we understand much better what it is not.

I'm Bob Evans and that is my perspective.

Robert Evans is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics, Business and Accounting at Rockford University and Associate Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship. He is actively involved in the Rockford University public policy program, trains managers on law-related topics, is a political consultant and analyst, and also serves on non-profit boards.