9 Legal Experts On Why Trump Jr. Can’t Hide Behind Attorney-Client Privilege


Publish Date:
December 7, 2017
  • Illing, Sean
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President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has refused to tell lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee about conversations he had with his father this summer about the now-infamous June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin.

Trump Jr. cited “attorney-client privilege” to avoid answering the lawmakers’ questions about the conversation, explaining that both his and President Trump’s lawyers were also on the phone call. But some lawmakers balked at that excuse. “I don’t believe you can shield communications between individuals merely by having an attorney present,” Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, told Politico. “That’s not the purpose of attorney-client privilege.”

David Alan Sklansky, law professor, Stanford University

The attorney-client privilege only protects confidential communications between a lawyer and a client to facilitate the provision of legal services. If the two Trumps were talking confidentially with one or more lawyers who jointly represented both of them, and the only reason the father and son were talking with each other was to facilitate their conversations with the lawyers, and the point of those discussions was to facilitate legal services, then the privilege might apply — although even then there are exceptions.

But Rep. Schiff is completely right that the privilege doesn’t apply just because a lawyer is included in the conversation. A lawyer isn’t a walking cone of silence.

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