WASHINGTON—President Bush is signing up legal help as he girds for battle with the Democratic-led Congress.
Faced with a flurry of document requests and expanding congressional investigations, the White House announced Friday that Bush had hired nine lawyers, including five who'll fill new jobs in the president's legal office. The recruits have solid experience in white-collar crime, government investigations and constitutional law.
Legal experts said the hires indicated that Bush was gearing up to fight congressional inquiries that he considered an encroachment on presidential power. The president has accused Democrats of seeking to score political points by delving into White House deliberations on a host of issues.
"This indicates a war-on-all-fronts legal strategy against congressional oversight,'' said Washington lawyer Bruce Fein, who served as the deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration.
Some of the lawyers named in Friday's announcement already have joined the 22-member White House legal team.
Emmet Flood, a Republican who served on former President Clinton's legal team during Clinton's impeachment proceedings, left his Washington law firm last summer to represent Vice President Dick Cheney in the CIA leak case,
More recently, Flood has resisted Congress' efforts to obtain White House e-mails that were sent through the Republican Party's e-mail system. He previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Another White House hire, Francis Hoang, represented a civilian translator who was suspected of abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Three of the new employees once worked at White House counsel Fred Fielding's Washington law firm. Three are former federal prosecutors. Three clerked for Supreme Court justices. Most come from top-ranked law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Georgetown.
Bush, who's tested the limits of presidential authority on issues ranging from electronic eavesdropping to the control of presidential papers, has made no secret of his frustration with congressional investigations.
After six years with a compliant Republican-led Congress, the White House is facing a host of congressional investigations and demands for top presidential advisers to testify. The White House and Congress could be headed for a showdown if Democrats follow through on threats to subpoena White House adviser Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers for an investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
"The White House is laying in its stone wall," said John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor and a Democratic activist. "They are preparing to deflect the subpoenas for Rove and Miers from the beaches of Capitol Hill to the heights of the Supreme Court if necessary."
White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore acknowledged that the hires are directly related to the change of power in Congress.
"Our goal is to simply have the right people in place to adequately address issues and requests that come our way. Obviously, there's been an increase with the new Congress," she said. "While we do recognize some requests as legitimate and responsible requests for information, others are unfortunate fishing expeditions."
McClatchy Newspapers 2007