The White House counsel’s office is down to a skeletal staff, potentially leaving it unprepared to deal with a flood of subpoenas for documents and witnesses when Democrats take control of the House.
The office has been without a permanent leader since White House senior attorney Don McGahn left the administration in mid-October. His replacement, Pat Cipollone, is caught up in an extended background check that’s prevented him from starting. And in the coming weeks, deputy counsel Annie Donaldson, who served as McGahn’s most trusted aide and as the office’s chief of staff, is expected to leave the administration, according to two Republicans close to the White House. Donaldson is moving to Alabama with her husband, Brett Talley, whose nomination for a federal judgeship the White House withdrew in December 2017.
Amid the leadership tumult, the counsel’s office has shrunk to about 25 lawyers, according to a second Republican close to the administration. That’s fewer than its recent high point of roughly 35 attorneys and well short of the 40 that some expect it will need to deal with a reinvigorated Democratic Party eager to investigate President Donald Trump’s tax returns and business dealings in foreign countries, reopen probes into Russian election meddling and explore the behavior of a bevy of Cabinet officials.
“They only have roughly 20 dedicated White House lawyers and a bunch of detailees who could leave at any time,” one former White House official told POLITICO. “I don’t think anyone who is paying attention thinks they are prepared for a Democratic takeover.” [Continue reading…]