Jonathan Swan of Axios predicts that the WH will be on different footing come the mid-terms. Perhaps it is wishful thinking to sense that the Dems will be getting the upper hand in the House and win, (and very possibly so) but right now with all the R’s and T gloating over the SCOTUS win, it is hard to see.
Read on…what may be developing in terms of WH protecting themselves from subpoenas etc.
Some of this falls on Gen Kelly’s shoulder’s to plan for the results of the midterms and pending legal actions. AND I am still wondering was he the NY Times Leaker. Is it KELLY??? IS he any dis-incentivized to really protect and serve his president. I know he’s still employed, but who’s the one that plays both sides…?
1 big thing: Scoop — White House begins prepping for Dem legal storm
Top officials inside the White House have taken their first steps to prepare for an onslaught of investigations if Democrats win the House. According to a source with direct knowledge:
Chief of Staff John Kelly recently formed a small working group to start preparing for the possibility that Democrats will soon sic Congress’ top investigators on Trumpworld.
Senior White House staff have an offsite weekend retreat scheduled for late October. The agenda is expected to include a discussion of investigations under a Democratic-controlled House, according to the source.
To be clear: Team Trump is still trying to prevent a House flip from happening. They’re ramping up political activities leading into the midterm — including a blitz of rallies from the president — to give Republicans their best chance of saving the House.
Why this matters: Polls show Republicans will probably lose the House in November. And Trump’s team, including the understaffed White House Counsel’s Office, must batten down the hatches for an onslaught from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
White House officials have been telling us for weeks they were worried that Kelly hadn’t been taking the threat seriously enough. This is the first time I’ve learned new information to suggest that they’re preparing.
According to three sources who attend senior staff meetings, when Kelly gathers the full White House senior staff in the Roosevelt Room several times a week, they never discuss the prospect of investigations.
“You’d think,” one White House official told me, "we’d have a briefing or something to help us understand what’s coming with subpoenas and investigations."
What they’re saying: Over the past month, my colleague Evan Ryan and I have been interviewing lawyers who worked in the Obama and Clinton White Houses. We wanted to find out what it’s like being inside a White House when the opposite party controls Congress and trains its investigative fire on the president.
A couple lawyers spoke on the record; most didn’t. But what we learned from these conversations provides a map for Trump’s likely future.
> "Subpoenas flowing into a White House create paralysis," said Neil Eggleston, who was Obama’s White House counsel and an associate counsel in the Clinton administration.
“The whole system stops while everyone tries to comply with subpoenas and prepare to testify.”
“The White House doesn’t operate optimally, and the policymaking process doesn’t receive its due attention. Morale suffers, and energy is diverted to the crisis at hand.”
The big picture: Lawyers from previous White Houses mostly agreed on one thing: The better analogy for what’s coming for Trump is not the Obama White House, but Clinton’s.
Obama’s administration faced scandals — from “Fast and Furious” to the IRS-Tea Party targeting to Benghazi. But his White House counsels managed to mostly keep the White House out of the picture; the agencies bore the brunt of the investigative onslaught.
But Bill Clinton spent his entire presidency under a cloud of investigation, from Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky under the glare of Ken Starr. Staff who worked in the Clinton White House say it felt like there was a subpoena coming for them every day.
The bottom line: For the most part, the staff who work in the Trump West Wing — beyond the Counsel’s Office — have no idea what may be coming for them. But senior staff are now finally preparing for a tough new normal under House Democrats.
- Trump’s traps: White House lawyers analyze his danger spots
Here are the looming legal dangers for the Trump White House, foreseen by former White House lawyers interviewed by Evan Ryan and me:
Compartmentalization: One reason Bill Clinton survived a presidency of investigations was, according to his former staff, his almost supernatural ability to compartmentalize. He put the investigations in a psychic and literal box: A separate team handled them, from a communications war room to his lawyers. Clinton avoided publicly discussing the scandals.
“The key to Clinton’s survival during impeachment,” a former Clinton official told us, “was ‘compartmentalization’: working with Congress on substantive issues like health care and education, even as the same Congress was trying to impeach the president.”
“The president rarely talked about impeachment,” the former official added. “He showed himself to be busy at work delivering for the American people.”
Compare that to Trump. The president relishes discussing the Mueller probe, not only with his staff but on Twitter and in public interviews.
Staff tell us he can’t help himself. White House officials have told us they try to stay out of Trump’s vicinity on a bad Mueller news day, because any conversations with him may make their legal bills balloon.
"He has no boundaries," a former senior White House official told Axios. Trump will try to discuss the Mueller “WITCH HUNT” with whoever is around him.
Legal talent: Whoever ends up replacing McGahn as White House counsel “needs to put together what is in effect the best litigation and investigation law firm in this city,” Bill Clinton’s White House Counsel Jack Quinn told us.
“And needs to do it overnight. They’re going to have to get the best and the brightest and the most experienced and the most skillful, and assemble an absolutely first-rate team of lawyers to conduct defense on multiple fronts.”
The current White House Counsel’s Office — hampered for months by a terrible relationship between Don McGahn and Trump — is nowhere near the fine-tuned machine Quinn describes.
Competent and focused investigators: Incompetent, distracted and overzealous Republican congressional investigators helped both the Clinton and Obama administrations survive years of aggressive oversight.
If they win the House, Democrats could make the same mistakes and screw up their investigations by overreaching.
But there’s a decent chance they won’t. Former White House lawyers concurred that if Democrats install the highly experienced Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and keep Elijah Cummings and his seasoned staff in charge of oversight, they could marshal their investigatory power far more effectively than Republicans did under Obama and Clinton.
The bottom line: Obama’s White House Counsel Bob Bauer, who has thought considerably about these pitfalls and opportunities, told Axios: "An impeachment process is a legal process, and to defend against the inevitable political attacks, it must be carefully structured and well-presented to the public."
"It has to be disciplined in identifying and explaining the relevant standards for an impeachable offense, and it has to pay close attention to a fair and rigorous process.
"The House impeachment of President Clinton completely failed that test. …
“In any impeachment proceedings directed against Donald Trump, the House majority would be well-served by proceeding step by step with care, attention to detail and transparency.”