Donald Trump’s new White House counsel has hired 17 new lawyers in an effort to brace for a series of contentious showdowns with Democrats as the latter’s investigations rev up, according to the Washington Post. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his team plan to “strongly assert” Trump’s executive privilege in order to shield his conversations with top advisers and suppress any damaging information arising from the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference in 2016.
With rumors that Robert Mueller may soon deliver his final report to the Justice Department circulating, House Democrats are particularly concerned that White House lawyers will try to assert Trump’s executive privilege so that any portions of the report related to obstruction of justice can be kept from public view. Under the rules governing the special counsel, once the report is delivered to the Justice Department, the decision over whether to share it with Congress or disclose it to the public falls to the attorney general, which could be either acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker or attorney general nominee William Barr.
House Democrats plan to seek immediate access to the report, but Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani says Trump’s lawyers have told Justice Department officials they need to see the document before any parts of it are shared with anyone, including Congress.
As the Washington Post notes, such a high-profile skirmish over executive privilege hasn’t taken place since President Richard Nixon attempted to quash the release of the infamous White House tapes that ultimately sank him in the Watergate investigation. Nixon lost that battle, and many legal scholars believe Trump will lose it too because Mueller’s report will simply be too important to both Congress and the public interest.
But either way, the nation will soon be privy to a series of legal battles over what both the public and Congress have the right to know. The White House counsel’s office now comprises about 35 attorneys, and Cipollone hopes to add another handful, which would put the office closer to being on a par with that of previous administrations.