White House invents new excuse to stop former staff from talking to Congress


The White House keeps coming up with new ways to block its former employees from speaking about Trump's efforts to obstruct justice.

Another former White House employee has wasted the time of the House Judiciary Committee.

Annie Donaldson, former chief of staff to now-departed White House counsel Don McGahn, refused to answer over 200 questions from the committee. And she did so by invoking a type of privilege that seems to have been invented just for her.

For most of her refusals, Donaldson said that the White House had ordered her not to answer "because of the constitutionally-based Executive Branch confidentiality interests that are implicated."

No one knows what that means. There's no such formally recognized "constitutionally-based Executive Branch confidentiality" privilege that she or the White House can invoke. Functionally, it's just a long way of saying she won't answer the questions because the White House told her not to do so.

Donaldson had been subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee along with former White House communications director Hope Hicks.

Both Donaldson and Hicks witnessed Trump's chaotic behavior and his attempts to obstruct justice, and their observations were documented in the Mueller report. Hicks, infamously, was blocked by the White House from answering nearly everything, including where she sat and whether she talked to Trump at lunchtime.

Donaldson was allowed to answer a few more questions but mostly stonewalled the committee. The Mueller report revealed her to be a prolific note-taker, documenting Trump being in a state of "panic/chaos" about the Russia investigation. She also jotted down a key question — "Is this the beginning of the end?" — after Trump fired James Comey.

However, when she was asked about these notes, she insisted she couldn't recall many of the episodes in the Mueller report and also said she hadn't bothered to review her notes or her previous testimony to Mueller. Instead, she repeatedly fell back on the newly invented claim of privilege.

Much like Trump's ever-shifting rationale for why he needs a citizenship question on the census, this is another example of this White House manufacturing a reason to allow it to do whatever it wants.

Donaldson is married to fellow conservative lawyer Brett Talley. Talley was up for a lifetime federal judicial appointment, but his nomination stalled. He was rated "unanimously unqualified" by the American Bar Association, likely because he'd never argued a case or filed a motion in federal court. He also forgot to tell Congress that his wife worked for the White House.

Looks like forgetting crucial things runs in the family.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.