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Former Clinton lawyer scolds Trump’s White House counsel on impeachment: ‘we never considered’ behaving this way

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Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

On Tuesday, Lanny Breuer, a special counsel who worked for President Bill Clinton’s White House, wrote an open letter in the Washington Post to President Donald Trump’s White House Counsel Pat Cipollone — telling him that, while he understands an impeachment is a horrible thing for an administration to go through, Clinton and his lawyers would never have behaved the way Trump is now.

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“In 1998, we felt under siege,” wrote Breuer. “We argued at the time, as you do in your letter, that Congress should provide additional procedural protections to the president … For example, instead of conducting its own investigation, the committee relied almost exclusively on [independent counsel Ken] Starr’s report, which had serious flaws. The House took only three months to adopt articles of impeachment, and we had only two days to present our witnesses. The president’s personal lawyer, David Kendall, had only 30 minutes to question Starr. We felt this was deeply unfair and a derogation of the House’s constitutional duty to investigate thoroughly whether impeachment was warranted.”

“But we never considered the possibility of refusing entirely to participate in the impeachment inquiry or completely blocking the House’s access to documents and witnesses,” continued Breuer. “We understood that, regardless of how partisan the impeachment process was, we had the moral, ethical and legal obligation to operate within the bounds of our constitutional system.”

“A total refusal to respect our constitutional system is without precedent,” continued Breuer. “The founders understood, as Alexander Hamilton wrote , that impeachment, by its nature, ‘will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.’ Nevertheless, the White House cannot reject Congress’s authority on the mere grounds that it believes the House of Representatives seeks to ‘reverse’ a past election and ‘influence’ a future one.”

“You are not representing just any client. As White House counsel, you have a responsibility to serve the Office of the President, not the president himself,” wrote Breuer. “Your letter unfortunately conveys a different understanding.”

Breuer added that, “You should object and make cogent legal arguments to resist what you perceive as congressional overreach. Indeed, we fought hard at times to ensure a degree of fairness to the proceedings, and I advise you to do the same. Be zealous in your advocacy. That’s expected and appropriate. But you do not have a right merely to will Congress’s authority away. It’s wrong to try, and it won’t work.”

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“The White House counsel should convey respect for our constitutional system, not disregard for it, and defend the presidency without seeming to reject wholesale our constitutional system of checks and balances,” concluded Breuer. “I have confidence that our system is stronger than any one person, and you should, too.”

You can read more here.

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