Both Fox News and Axios have pieces reflecting the outrage!!! among Trump people that they got asked questions about emails they thought they had hidden from Mueller’s investigation. Axios reveals that Mueller obtained the full contents of 12 accounts, one including 7,000 emails, from people on the “political leadership” and “foreign-policy team.”
Fox reveals that a transition lawyer wrote Congress today claiming that it was unlawful for government employees to turn over emails hosted on government servers for a criminal investigation.
A lawyer for the Trump presidential transition team is accusing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office of inappropriately obtaining transition documents as part of its Russia probe, including confidential attorney-client communications and privileged communications.
In a letter obtained by Fox News and sent to House and Senate committees on Saturday, the transition team’s attorney alleges “unlawful conduct” by the career staff at the General Services Administration in handing over transition documents to the special counsel’s office.
Officials familiar with the case argue Mueller could have a problem relating to the 4th Amendment – which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Kory Langhofer, the counsel to Trump for America, wrote in the letter that the the GSA “did not own or control the records in question.”
But, Langhofer says, Mueller’s team has “extensively used the materials in question, including portions that are susceptible to claims of privilege.”
And Axios explains that the Trump people actually sorted through this stuff. “The sources say that transition officials assumed that Mueller would come calling, and had sifted through the emails and separated the ones they considered privileged.”
I’m really looking forward to hearing the full story about this, rather than just this partisan spin. For example, I’m interested in whether Mueller realized via some means (perhaps from someone like Reince Priebus or Sean Spicer) that the White House had withheld stuff that was clearly responsive to his requests, so he used that to ask GSA to turn over the full set.
I’m also interested in how they’ll claim any of this was privileged. The top 12 political and foreign policy people on the Trump team might include:
- KT McFarland
- Seb Gorka
- Stephen Miller
- Hope Hicks
- Don Jr
Just one of those people — Sessions — is a practicing lawyer, and he wasn’t playing a legal role in the transition (though both Sessions and Nunes may have been using their congressional email, in which case Mueller likely would show far more deference). Though I suppose they might have been talking with a lawyer.
Furthermore, Trump wasn’t President yet! This has come up repeatedly in congressional hearings. You don’t get privilege until after you’re president, in part to prevent you from doing things like — say — undermining existing foreign policy efforts. So even if these people were repeating things Trump said, it wouldn’t be entitled to privilege yet.
Finally, consider that some of these people were testifying to the grand jury months and months ago. But we’re only seeing this complaint today. That’s probably true for two reasons. One, because Mueller used the emails in question (most notably, the emails between McFarland and Flynn from December 29 where they discussed Russian sanctions) to obtain a guilty plea from Flynn. And, second, because Republicans are pushing to get Trump to fire Mueller.
Update: I’ve added Pence, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Hope Hicks back in here.