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.
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Rules and Norms in the Trump Presidency: The Risks and Rewards of ‘Playing It Straight’ on the Inside
James Comey, Don McGahn and Robert Mueller all decided they had to break or bend rules and norms because “playing it straight” was not an option in the Trump presidency.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler questioning the validity of the committee's investigation into, as the committee stated, "alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump, his associates, and members of his Administration." Cipollone stated that the White House "[does] not believe the investigation ...
The issue of whether former White House Counsel Don McGahn’ will testify before Congress raises questions about executive privilege and the compelled congressional testimony of senior presidential advisers that the courts have only seldom, if ever, addressed.
On March 4, the chairmen of the House committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform sent a request to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney for information regarding a Washington Post report that President Trump sought to conceal notes of interpreters and linguists following meetings with Russian Presi
President Trump seems to have relied on the White House counsel’s office for advice on declaring a national emergency—but then disregarded the office’s repeatedly expressed doubts about the legal basis for the declaration.
President Trump’s latest broad assertion of his own power to disregard constitutional law will be an important test for the new or acting White House counsel.
If McGahn is not what the president would have preferred in a counsel to the Trump administration, McGahn has clearly succeeded to a significant degree as the chief White House lawyer in a Republican administration.
Last month, Lawfare and Foreign Policy hosted an event on lawyering for the Trump presidency. Susan Hennessey spoke with former White House Counsels Bob Bauer, who served in the Obama administration from 2010 to 2011, and A.B. Culvahouse, who served in the Reagan administration from 1987 to 1989, in a lively discussion on providing legal support when your client is the president.
The Trump administration's recent missteps should turn our attention to the question of whether Don McGahn is fulfilling his responsibilities as White House Counsel.