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Office of Counsel

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The Office of Counsel to the President of the United States—also known as the Counsel to the President, White House Office Counsel and White House Counsel—"advises the President on all legal issues concerning the President and the White House." [1] The White House Counsel is a staff appointee of the President. [2]

The Office of Counsel has existed since 1941, as each President has set up in the White House what President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "counsel Gerald Morgan called the 'Just-Us Department': an office on his immediate staff that could give him advice directly -- and independently of the institutional resources of his cabinet." [3]

George W. Bush administration

On January 9, 2007, it was announced that President George W. Bush was to appoint veteran Washington lawyer Fred F. Fielding as White House Counsel. [4]

President Bush's first White House Counsel was Alberto R. Gonzales (2001-2005), who is now U.S. Attorney General. He was succeeded in February 2005 by Harriet E. Miers, at one time under consideration as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Miers resigned January 5, 2007. [5]

Expanded White House legal office

"The White House has expanded its legal team to handle the fights it is having with the new Democratic Congress," Deb Reichmann wrote June 8, 2007, for the Associated Press.[1]

"Since becoming President Bush's new lawyer in February [2007], Fred Fielding has created five new positions in the White House counsel's office, expanding the staff to 22 lawyers, the White House said ... Fielding also has filled a handful of empty desks in his office.

"Fielding is strengthening the staff to deal with an avalanche of requests the White House is getting from lawmakers investigating the flap over the firings of U.S. attorneys, missing e-mails, prewar intelligence and other matters," Reichmann wrote.

"'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.'"[2]

On June 8, 2007, the following were named by President George W. Bush to serve in the Office of Counsel: J. Michael Farren was named to serve as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President. Ferran replaces William K. Kelley.[3]

William Burck and Emmet Flood were each named to serve as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Special Counsel to the President. Scott Coffina, Amy F. Dunathan, Francis Q. Hoang, Al Lambert, Michael Purpura, and Kate Todd were each named to serve as an Associate Counsel to the President.[4]

On June 18, 2007, it was announced that Stephen D. Potts, Chairman of the Ethics Resource Center, will join the Office of Counsel in July 2007 as an Associate Counsel to the President.[5]

About the new members

It should be noted that, of the ten new members of the Office of Counsel named by President Bush on June 8, 2007, three come directly from the offices of Fred Fielding's former law firm Wiley Rein & Fielding, LLP, namely Amy F. Dunathan, Al Lambert, and Kate Todd.[6] A fourth, Scott Coffina, who recently served as a Partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads in Philadelphia, is "a friend" with Fielding and a former associate at Wiley Rein & Fielding.[7]

Stephen D. Potts, Chairman of the Ethics Resource Center since 2004, was also previously connected with Fielding, whom Potts has "known for many years". Fielding served as ERC's Vice Chair before his appointment as White House Counsel in January 2007.[8]

Two come from the offices of Williams & Connolly, LLP,[9] which represents "highly visible criminal cases throughout the country",[10] namely Emmet Flood and Francis Q. Hoang.[11]

Another, Michael Purpura, recently served as Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice as "a top aide" to Deputy AG Paul J. McNulty, who "resigned amid the controversy over the firing of U.S. Attorneys."[12]

Of the ten, three have direct ties to current members of the Supreme Court: William Burck served as a Law Clerk to Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Emmet Flood served as a Law Clerk to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.[13] Also, Kate Todd's husband is a Law Clerk to Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr..[14]

Additionally, Farren was previously connected with the Republican National Committee, having served as White House liaison from 1981 to 1983.[15]

Deputy Assistants

There have been two Deputy Assistants to the President who concurrently served as Deputy Counsel to the President: Timothy E. Flanigan (2001-2003) and David G. Leitch (2003- ).

J. Michael Farren was named on June 8, 2007, to serve as both Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President.[16] Ferran replaces William K. Kelley, "who will return to his teaching job at Notre Dame at the end of [June 2007]" and "has been caught up in the U.S. attorney controversy."[17]

Other Assistants

Additionally, there have been a number of Special Assistants to the President, Associate Counsels to the President, and Executive Assistants to the Counsel of the President. They are often simply referred to as "White House lawyers" and "Bush administration lawyers".

Former Members of the Office

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Deb Reichmann, "White House Expands Its Legal Team," Associated Press (FederalNewsRadio.com), June 8, 2007.
  2. Ron Hutcheson, "Bush beefs up corps of lawyers. Moves to confront Congress' probes," McClatchy Newspapers (News Observer), June 9, 2007.
  3. News Release: Personnel Announcement, Office of the White House Press Secretary, June 8, 2007.
  4. News Release: Personnel Announcement, Office of the White House Press Secretary, June 8, 2007.
  5. "Potts Leaves ERC Chair to Become Associate Counsel to the President," PRNewswire-USNewswire, June 18, 2007.
  6. News Release: Personnel Announcement, Office of the White House Press Secretary, June 8, 2007.
  7. Alexis Simendinger, "WH Counsel Expands Legal Team," The Gate/National Journal, June 8, 2007.
  8. "Potts Leaves ERC Chair to Become Associate Counsel to the President," PRNewswire-USNewswire, June 18, 2007.
  9. Williams & Connolly, LLP website, accessed June 19, 2007.
  10. "Our Firm," Williams & Connolly, LLP, accessed June 19, 2007.
  11. News Release: Personnel Announcement, Office of the White House Press Secretary, June 8, 2007.
  12. Peter Lattman, "White House Staffs Up Its 'Great Little Law Firm'," Law Blog/Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2007.
  13. News Release: "Personnel Announcement," Office of the White House Press Secretary, June 8, 2007.
  14. David Lat, "Musical Chairs: Fred Fielding Beefs Up the White House Counsel's Office," AboveTheLaw.com, February 14, 2007.
  15. Profile: J. Michael Farren, Forbes, accessed June 19, 2007.
  16. News Release: Personnel Announcement, Office of the White House Press Secretary, June 8, 2007.
  17. Peter Baker, "Besieged White House Reinforces Counsel's Office," Washington Post, June 9, 2007.
  18. Peter Baker and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Miers Steps Down As White House Gears Up for Battle," Washington Post, January 5, 2007.
  19. Jason McLure, "White House Counsel Taps Two Former N.Y. Prosecutors," Legal Times, May 14, 2007.

General Information

White House Office staff lists

External articles