Editor's Note: This annoucement is crossposted with Just Security.
Bob Bauer served as White House Counsel to President Obama. In 2013, the President named Bob to be Co-Chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. He is a Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law, as well as the co-director of the university's Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic.
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A decision with limited immediate consequences could have more impact over the long run in elevating the role of the president’s lawyers in future conflicts with Congress.
Impeachment is both a political and a legal process. It is not unconstrained by precedent, nor is it controlled by it. In the course of impeachment, legislators may be guided by a sense of constitutional responsibility, but they also keep their eye on public opinion polls. They are sensitive to the constitutional history they are writing. Lawmakers also prefer reelection to defeat. Nothing they say in one moment about process or substance may hold under the pressure of events or swings in public sentiment.
The aggressive letter from the White House counsel to Congress, announcing that the president will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, is further evidence of the deterioration of norms in the conduct of senior government positions.
Rules and Norms in the Trump Presidency: The Risks and Rewards of ‘Playing It Straight’ on the Inside
James Comey famously does things his own way, and the Department of Justice inspector general has not approved. Having criticized the former FBI director’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, the inspector general most recently upbraided him for his use of “sensitive investigative information” in sounding an alarm about Donald Trump.
There is no reason to doubt that in seeking reelection, President Trump will consider once more breaking or skirting laws or ethical limits to win. He has already proclaimed a willingness to accept campaign support from a foreign government, retreating only somewhat under public pressure.