White House aides are staying off television and trying to focus on their policy portfolios to avoid getting caught up in the impeachment inquiry -- but they're also reaching out to lawyers in case they're called to testify.
About a dozen current and former administration officials have already testified to House impeachment investigators, and all of them have hired attorneys, although few guidelines currently exist for hiring or paying for their legal defense, reported Politico.
“Mid-level White House staffers are worried about getting wrapped up in the Democrats’ investigation, even if they are not primary players,” said one former senior administration official who has kept in touch with ex-colleagues. “People are concerned they will have to testify, so they are trying to lay low. If they do think they need a lawyer, they are trying to figure out how to get one.”
Current and former officials who have already testified have generally reached out to top Washington firms that specialize in congressional investigations, white-collar crime or national security cases, and their counsel typically costs up to $1,500 an hour, according to three attorneys who spoke to Politico.
Trump allies and attorneys have not yet set up a legal defense fund for aides as they did for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and the rules for hiring and paying for counsel aren't very clear.
The Office of Government Ethics doesn't offer any guidance on the rules for hiring a lawyer or accepting help from a legal defense fund, said government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman, who has been asking for clear rules on that for years.
State Department and National Security Council staffers have gotten attorney recommendations from friends or through professional networks, but they have little guidance on accepting pro bono legal work or help from a legal defense fund.
The OGE is currently working on guidelines, but those won't be ready until after the 2020 election.
“We won’t know how much money they are spending on their legal defense fund, or where the money is coming from,” said Holman, who lobbies for Public Citizen. “To me, that is the biggest shortcoming. It is one real mess.”