White House lawyers expected to take lead in impeachment

White House lawyers expected to take lead in impeachment

WASHINGTON — As House Democrats prepare for public impeachment hearings, President Donald Trump and his legal team are working to organize a defence that will rely heavily on White House attorneys and congressional Republicans to stave off the threat to his presidency.

Democrats consider the hearings to be their best chance to put Trump’s behaviour on public display before a politically fraught impeachment vote. Trump’s allies, for their part, see the hearings as an opportunity to take the fight to the president’s opponents. The political lens through which both sides are viewing the public hearings is informing the president’s legal strategy, according to Trump’s supporters.

The White House counsel’s office is currently expected to take the lead in mounting the president’s defence, according to a person familiar with the legal strategy who spoke on condition of anonymity to relay internal discussions. The arrangement will put government attorneys, rather than the president’s personal lawyers, on the front lines of Trump’s attempt to fend off Democratic efforts to remove him from office.

The White House did not comment on the arrangement.

The White House attorneys will be bolstered by the roster of GOP lawmakers who have already been serving as the president’s de facto defence counsel in closed-door hearings. Transcripts of depositions released this week show Republican lawmakers taking steps to try to undermine the credibility of witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. Other legislators have sought to publicly unmask the whistleblower whose summer complaint served as the catalyst for the impeachment probe.

A White House official said the president was supportive of efforts to move vocal defenders like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to the House Intelligence Committee, which will hold the first public hearings, believing him to be an effective questioner and defender of the president. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss legal strategy.

Further involvement by the lawyers is expected once hearings move to the Judiciary Committee. The House voted last week to approve rules for the impeachment inquiry that invite the president and his attorneys to attend all hearings by that committee. Additionally, the president’s counsel is to be granted access to the committee’s evidence and the ability to question witnesses. The White House official dismissed the idea that the president would attend.

The decision to put the counsel’s office out in front in responding to the impeachment inquiry was made because the congressional probe centres on actions that Trump took as president, according to the person familiar with legal strategy. That’s in contrast to the impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton, which involved allegations that he lied about his relationship with a White House intern and sought to obstruct an investigation into the affair.

It gives Trump the image of being represented by the White House counsel, rather than private attorneys whose prominence in the proceedings, they believe, might diminish his stature. It also keeps the legal team that still includes embattled former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani away from the spotlight.

In the first year of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, the administration added a special in-house lawyer, Ty Cobb, to respond to prosecutors’ requests for documents and interviews with White House staff. Cobb was later replaced by another attorney, Emmet Flood. The president also relied on a team of personal attorneys, including Giuliani, to handle negotiations with Mueller’s team on matters such as terms for an interview.

“The rationale is correct as far as it goes, but I also think that there’s good reason to not have the White House counsel’s office take the lead on this,” said Timothy Flanigan, a former deputy counsel to President George W. Bush.

He added: “The White House counsel’s office has a lot to do. It’s not clear to me that it’s always a good idea for the White House counsel to get involved in a project of this magnitude.”

Still, there can be benefits in having the counsel’s office intimately involved in an investigation like this, simply by virtue of familiarity with the events.

“They’ve obviously spent a lot of time with whatever documents there are and whatever information there is,” Flanigan said.

Trump’s supporters, meanwhile, can be expected to try to minimize the threat of the impeachment inquiry by casting the Mueller probe as one that was more perilous in nature. They aim to paint impeachment as a done deal given the Democratic majority in the House, and argue that any outcome short of removal of the president through conviction in the Senate is a victory for Trump.

Eric Tucker And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Impeachment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artists of all genres are encouraged to apply for a variety of awards and scholarships available through the Red Deer Arts Council. This mixed-media work, Shadow Man by Paul Boultbee, has shown at the Kiwanis Gallery, operated by the council. (Contributed image).
Red Deer-area artists can apply for various awards, scholarships by March 1

The Red Deer Arts Council seeks to encourage artistic development

People lineup at a hotel for the homeless before the 8 p.m. COVID-19 curfew on Jan. 11, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

The body of 25-year-old Kyler Corriveau was discovered near Red Deer on Sunday. He was missing since Dec. 15. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contrinuted photo).
RCMP are investigating the death of missing Red Deer man as a homicide

The body of Kyler Corriveau was discovered on Sunday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 over Tuesday afternoon. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Community Futures Central Alberta, in partnership with the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network (CARIN), is behind the SMARTstart initiative for budding entrepreneurs.
New program aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed

Program offers mentorship, business advice and networking opportunities

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) scores the game-winning goal past Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) during overtime in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ehlers scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets rally for 4-3 win over Ottawa Senators

Ehlers scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets rally for 4-3 win over Ottawa Senators

Canadian women's soccer team member Rhian Wilkinson is seen during a training session in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 21, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canada Soccer coach Rhian Wilkinson joins England women’s coaching staff

Former Canada Soccer coach Rhian Wilkinson joins England women’s coaching staff

Canadian Premier League commissioner David Clanachan is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Premier League-Darren Goldstein **MANDATORY CREDIT**
CPL targets season kickoff on Victoria Day Weekend, providing authorities agree

CPL targets season kickoff on Victoria Day Weekend, providing authorities agree

United States forward Brianna Decker (14) and Canada forward Marie-Philip Poulin battle for the puck during first period of 2018 Four Nations Cup gold medal game in Saskatoon on November 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

Soldiers parade from Parliament Hill as they take part in the National Day of Honour in Ottawa on Friday, May 9, 2014. Canada’s veterans ombudsman is calling on the federal government reverse to restrictions on the provision of mental-health services for the families of retired military personnel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ombudsman slams new restrictions on mental-health support for veterans’ families

Ombudsman slams new restrictions on mental-health support for veterans’ families

FILE - John Mulaney arrives at night one of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sept. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. A file obtained by The Associated Press shows the U.S. Secret Service investigated John Mulaney, but found no wrongdoing in a joke the comedian made on “Saturday Night Live” in February 2020. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
File details investigation into John Mulaney ‘SNL’ monologue

File details investigation into John Mulaney ‘SNL’ monologue

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, file photo, Tom Hanks arrives at the People's Choice Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating the inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
From Gaga to Garth, Miranda to Moreno: Celebs join inaugural

Like so much this past year, the inaugural celebration will be like… Continue reading

A Honduran migrant poses for a photo at a road block manned by Guatemalan soldiers and police, on the highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Some migrants threw rocks while authorities launched tear gas and pushed the migrants with their riot shields back down the highway. (AP Photo/Sandra Sebastian)
Large migrant caravan dissolves in Guatemala

Large migrant caravan dissolves in Guatemala

Most Read