Is the Trump Administration Overwhelming the House Counsel’s Office?

One question that I keep getting from reporters relates to how fast (or slowly) the various court cases related to the House’s investigation of the president are moving. While these cases are moving at a reasonable clip for ordinary litigation, they are not proceeding fast enough to enable the House to obtain any of the desired information during this session and perhaps not fast enough to get the information by the end of the congress.

For example, one of the cases (I think it was the Judiciary Committee’s application for grand jury materials) was filed at the end of July or early August, and the parties agreed to a briefing schedule that went through September. This seemed to me a rather leisurely pace, given the House’s contention that it needed the information for the purpose of considering articles of impeachment. When I asked about this on Twitter, several folks offered the explanation that nobody is in DC in August.

Maybe. I wonder, though, whether part of the reason is simply that the House Counsel’s office does not have the bandwidth to handle all of these cases simultaneously. The office currently has nine lawyers, according to the website, which is  a lot more than it had when I was there (when we typically had four or five), not to mention more than can reasonably be accommodated in its existing space. It also is receiving some help (apparently on a pro bono basis) from outside lawyers.

Still, this is not a lot of firepower to deal with the volume of work that the office currently has. It is currently representing House committees in six cases involving congressional investigations into the administration (three initiated by the House, three by President Trump or the Trump administration). It has also been involved in a number of other significant cases this year, including litigation over the border wall, the census, and the Affordable Care Act. Presumably its lawyers are also involved in advising the leadership and committees on legal issues that seem to pop up on a daily basis (e.g., relating to the Ukraine whistleblower, the congressional subpoena to Rudy Giuliani, and efforts to depose State Department officials). All of which is on top of the House Counsel’s normal duties.

Which raises the question whether the Trump administration’s legal resources are simply overwhelming the House Counsel’s office. Trump’s  personal lawyers alone probably outnumber the House Counsel’s entire legal staff. And the executive branch has an essentially unlimited number of lawyers to work on these cases and issues. All of which raises the further question whether this is a deliberate strategy or something that they just lucked into?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.