Time: Presidential adviser wants Bush to 'beef up' White House Counsel's office fearing possible Dem-controlled House probes

Ron Brynaert
Published: Sunday July 23, 2006

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An adviser to President George W. Bush wants the White House Counsel's office to be "beef[ed] up" in case a possibly Democratic controlled House pursues a "tangle of investigations," according to a Time Magazine web exclusive.

Near the end of an article about how "the crisis in Lebanon has dragged the Administration into the role of potential peacemaker," Time's Mike Allen reports that the Administration's "outlook" for the midterm elections reads "ominous" for the Republican Party and for President Bush.

"As for Bush himself, he is curtailing his traditional August working vacation at the ranch so that he can barnstorm before the midterm elections," writes Allen for Time.

"Their outlook thus far seems so ominous for the G.O.P. that one presidential adviser wants Bush to beef up his counsel's office for the tangle of investigations that a Democrat-controlled House might pursue," Allen continues.

According to the White House website, the White House Counsel office "advises the President on all legal issues concerning the President and the White House."

Harriet Miers currently serves as the White House Counsel, following Alberto Gonzales who was chosen last year to take over for Attorney General after John Ashcroft resigned.

A year ago, The Washington Post reported that Miers led a staff of 13 lawyers.

Prior White House Counsels

"Although the White House Counsel offers legal advice to the President, the Counsel does so in the President's official capacity, and does not serve as the President's personal attorney," according to Wikipedia. "Therefore, controversy has emerged over the scope of the attorney-client privilege between the Counsel and the President."

John Dean served as White House Counsel for President Richard Nixon until he was fired on April 30, 1973, a few weeks after he began "cooperating with Watergate prosecutors."

Bernard Nussbaum, the first White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton, "resigned after only 14 months in the position, forced out over allegations of improper conduct with officials investigating the president," concerning Whitewater and surrounding the suicide of former deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster.

"Whether to have an independent counsel didn't just affect the president personally, it affects him in his official capacity," Nussbaum told the Harvard Law Bulletin. "It affects his ability to function in a proper manner as president."

"So I never had any doubts about who I was representing: I was representing the president in his official capacity," Nussbaum said. "I was dealing with issues which affected him in his official capacity."

"So this notion that I was really thinking about the president personally, and I was not thinking of the office--you don't represent an office or a building, you represent a person in that office, and a person acting in his official capacity in that office," Nussbaum added.

Bush's private counsel

In June of 2004, President Bush sought Washington attorney James E. Sharp for advice about testimony he might have to give in the still-ongoing grand jury investigation into the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson over three years ago.

In a column for FindLaw, John Dean asked an experienced former federal prosecutor what advice a non-goverment lawyer might give President Bush.

"The lawyer I consulted opined that, 'If he does have knowledge about the leak and does not plan to disclose it, the only good legal advice would be to take the Fifth, rather than lie,'" wrote Dean.

According to a Newsweek article written by Michael Isikoff, Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald visited Sharp's office last November just before he indicted Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to "tell him the president's closest aide [Karl Rove] would not be charged."