KEY POINTS

  • Trump has said he would invoke executive privilege to prevent Bolton's testimony
  • To invoke executive privilege, Trump would have to prove national securty concerns
  • Legal experts believe Trump would struggle to do so

Although the Senate has yet to decide whether or not to allow witness testimonies during the impeachment trial, President Donald Trump has said he would take special steps to prevent certain people from taking the stand. Turns out it might not be so simple, from a legal standpoint.

Earlier this month, former national security adviser John Bolton said that if he were to be subpoenaed by the Senate, he would comply and give his testimony. Trump, however, has stated that he does not want Bolton to appear before the Senate and that he would be willing to take special steps to stop him. To do so, Trump has said, he would invoke executive privilege.

According to legal experts, though, it’s not quite that simple. In order to invoke executive privilege, Trump would have to demonstrate how Bolton’s testimony would endanger national security. Doing this would likely prove difficult.

Speaking to Reuters, constitutional scholar Mark Rozell said it would be possible for Bolton to testify without disclosing secrets about national security. In his opinion, it appears as though Trump would invoke executive privilege in order to protect himself, and that such a move would not stand up to legal scrutiny.

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who is overseeing the impeachment trial, would likely have the final say in whether Trump could block Bolton from testifying.

Democrats have been vying to have Bolton and others give testimony since the House began its impeachment inquiry. Several key figures, including Bolton, ultimately did not appear in the House after Trump threatened to legally contest their subpoenas. However, if Bolton were to be subpoenaed by the Senate, it would require at least four Republicans to join Democrats.

Bolton would be a particularly crucial witness to summon for Democrats. He was serving in the White House during the events that kicked off the Ukraine scandal and would likely have insider information that can’t be easily found elsewhere. Bolton may also be holding a grudge against Trump, as it is no secret that he frequently butted heads with Trump, which likely lead to his eventual dismissal last year. As such, it’s expected that if Bolton were to testify, he would be inclined to be unrestrained in his statements.

This week saw the opening of the impeachment trial. While Democrats had hoped to establish rules that would permit witness testimonies, that has yet to happen as Republicans so far have refused to budge.