U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan cornered Michael Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell on Tuesday when it came to the question of President Donald Trump’s involvement in the case. Powell, a private citizen, attempted to invoke executive privilege to hide the substance and existence of conversations with Trump, but she folded when Sullivan said that’s not how executive privilege works. A slew of lawyers promptly followed suit, criticizing Powell for the awkward exchange.
Sullivan, during a crucial hearing on DOJ and Flynn’s joint attempt to dismiss the criminal prosecution against the former National Security Advisor and retired lieutenant general, asked if Powell had spoken with the president.
“I’m sorry your honor, I can’t discuss that,” Powell said. The judge pressed for an answer as to why.
“I would think that any conversations I have had with the president would be covered by executive privilege,” Powell answered.
“You don’t work for the government,” Sullivan shot back.
“I don’t think executive privilege only applies to people who work for the government,” Powell said.
“So you’re purporting to invoke executive privilege?” a startled Judge Sullivan asked.
Eventually, Powell admitted that she spoke with Jenna Ellis, the Trump campaign’s senior legal advisor, and to Trump himself to give him a “brief update on the status of the litigation in the past couple of weeks.”
Executive privilege, as legal experts promptly noted, is the “power of the President and other officials in the executive branch to withhold certain forms of confidential communication from the courts and the legislative branch.”
Powell is not an executive branch employee.
Lawyers, in a seemingly endless barrage of reaction, treated all of this like something farcical.
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
[Image via Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]
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