White House Flack Raises Legal Concerns Over Spinning the Biden Corruption Scandal – JONATHAN TURLEY

The White House Counsel’s office has been headed by some of Washington’s most revered legal figures from Lloyd Cutler to Boyden Gray. These were lawyers with strong Republican or Democratic alliances who were both aggressive and protective in support of their presidents. However, they maintained strict lines in offering objective (and sometimes unwelcomed) advice to presidents in the interest of their offices. They were adamant in maintaining space between the political and legal operations of the White House.

There have been White House counsels who lost that objectivity and separation to the great peril to themselves and their office. Nixon had John Ehrlichman, Chuck Colson, and John Dean — all of whom were convicted or pleaded guilty to criminal offenses.

The office under Siskel has returned to earlier models of partisan White House Counsel. The first such office holder, then called Special Counsel, was New York Judge Samuel Rosenman who made no pretense of any independent or apolitical role in working for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He trained and was followed by Clark Clifford who was aggressively political.

Presidents have also routinely selected close friends or loyalists for the role. The office could be used as a counterfoil to the Attorney General, who often pursued conflicting institutional interests.

Yet, as the White House Counsel’s office grew, it took on greater ethical and reporting responsibilities. The culture changed to protecting the presidency as much as the president, including giving unwelcomed advice. That was the case in the final days of the Trump Administration when Pat Cipollone confronted the President on election fraud claims and actively pushed back on private counsel like Rudy Giuliani. During the impeachments, Cipollone was circumspect and restrained. He was rarely in the public eye and his office issued comparably few responses to media stories.

In past years, it was often difficult to get a statement on the record from the White House Counsel’s office, which routinely referred anything even remotely political to the Chief of Staff or the Press Secretary.

That has changed with Sams, who has issued statements from the White House Counsel’s office with the speed and the sarcasm of a DNC flack. This is often in response to requests for the legal position of the office to a major filing or legal claim.

He is unrelenting and, by all appearances, entirely unrestrained. Every day, there are Sams-I-am missives that border on the Seussian” “You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.”

I have previously raised concerns over the role of Sams in the impeachment inquiry. In my testimony in the first Biden impeachment hearing, I noted that the Biden White House was approaching a dangerous line in pushing false claims on the corruption scandal, including repeating President Biden’s past denials that he never spoke to his son or had knowledge of his son’s foreign dealings. It can lead to the same blurred lines that led to not just the impeachment articles but the criminal charges in the Nixon Administration.

Those concerns became magnified this month when the House sent the ten questions to the President to address glaring contradictions in his past public statements. Sams immediately responded on behalf of the White House Counsel:

“LOL. Comer knows 20+ witnesses have testified that POTUS did nothing wrong. He knows that the hundreds of thousands of pages of records he’s received have refuted his false allegations. This is a sad stunt at the end of a dead impeachment. Call it a day, pal.”

Again, it is the type of posting that one would expect from the DNC, not the WHC. Yet, Siskel clearly approves of this type of taunting, sarcastic response from an office that has fought to maintain its image of professionalism and prudence.

Sams, not Siskel, is now the face of the White House Counsel’s office. That is certainly welcomed by the Biden campaign, but it is often difficult to distinguish postings between the two operations. With an impeachment inquiry in the field, that aggressive media role can produce more than favorable media articles. It can become the basis for actual impeachment articles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *