Now that Democrats have gained control of the House of Representatives, it is merely a matter of time before President Donald Trump’s White House is inundated with a deluge of subpoenas demanding documents and interviews related to a whole host of alleged issues Democrats intend on investigating.
The general consensus is that President Trump will need a veritable army of lawyers to fend off the various and sundry subpoenas, but reports indicate that the White House counsel’s office is significantly understaffed at the moment — and it stands without an actual leader.
As such, the office could be grossly unprepared for what Democrats will throw at them in the coming months.
Politico reported that while the White House counsel’s office is typically staffed with around 40 lawyers and employees, the office currently only has about 25 lawyers, some of whom are on the verge of leaving for the private sector or for other positions within the administration.
“They only have roughly 20 dedicated White House lawyers and a bunch of detailees who could leave at any time,” said a former White House official. “I don’t think anyone who is paying attention thinks they are prepared for a Democratic takeover.”
That Democrat takeover of the House will inevitably involve a substantial number of investigations and plethora of subpoenas on matters like alleged Russian election interference and collusion in 2016, President Trump’s unreleased tax returns, Trump Organization business dealings with foreign nationals and all sorts of potential missteps by cabinet officials, among countless other things.
No clear leader
But a lack of lawyers on the roster isn’t the only problem plaguing the White House counsel’s office: they also don’t have a clear leader.
The office was formerly run by senior attorney Don McGahn, but he announced he was leaving in mid-October, and many of the attorneys employed in the office under McGahn were tied to him as part of his former law firm, and are expected to make their exit soon as well.
His replacement, attorney Pat Cipollone, is still caught up in the process of undergoing an extensive background check and extricating himself from the entanglements of his own private law firm, and therefore has not yet been able to step in and take charge and make the necessary hires to fill out the team.
In the interim, the White House counsel’s office is being managed by White House attorney Emmet Flood, whose normal duties include overseeing the White House’s response to the Robert Mueller special counsel probe into Russian election meddling.
Preparations are underway
An unnamed White House official declined to give Politico an official headcount of active attorneys in the counsel’s office, but nevertheless insisted that the office had full intentions “to work with Democrats but [are] prepared for harassment of the president.”
However, the counsel’s office likely hopes that Cipollone will soon be able to get started in his new role at the White House and begin to beef up his team of lawyers in preparation for the onslaught of Democrat demands that must be dealt with.
Of course, that would be contingent upon Trump’s White House making a concerted effort to respond to each and every subpoena issued by House Democrats.
It would not at all be out of the question for Trump’s White House to simply ignore most of the subpoenas — by virtue of claimed executive privilege — and then fight them later.
All in all, the White House counsel’s office under President Trump is said to be understaffed and ill-prepared for what House Democrats will be hitting them with over the next two years.
But hopefully, those reports are overblown and the White House attorneys will be ready for the deluge of subpoenas headed their way in the very near future.