WASHINGTON — President Biden’s legal team is laying the groundwork to defend against an expected onslaught of scrutiny probes by congressional Republicans if they take one or both chambers in the midterm elections — including the preparation for the possibility of impeachment as a reward for the two impeachments of President Donald J. Trump.
As part of those preparations, Mr. Biden and his White House attorney, Dana Remus, hired Richard A. Sauber, a longtime white-collar defense attorney who is now the top lawyer in the Department of Veterans Affairs. , to oversee responses to subpoenas. and other surveillance efforts, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Mr. Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, and Ms. Remus also met for months to determine possible divisions of labor between White House attorneys and outside attorneys, according to people briefed on the matter.
The arrangement would aim to respect the limits of what taxpayer-funded lawyers should handle and to ensure that Mr. Biden’s two groups of lawyers do not mix work in a way that could inadvertently breach privilege. executive and attorney-client protecting what attorneys know. from any subpoenas for their testimony or notes.
It is a routine dynamic of Washington life that when one party controls both elected branches of government, Congress indulges in oversight. When the government is divided, the opposition party is much more aggressive in wielding subpoenas and oversight hearings in an attempt to uncover and expose executive incompetence or wrongdoing.
But the turmoil of the Trump era and its aftermath are taking that to new levels of intensity, and some Republicans seem keen to focus on Mr Biden and his family – particularly his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings. Biden. A handful of far-right Republicans have already signed a series of impeachment resolutions.
Republicans also signaled their intention to consider various pandemic-related issues that could reach the White House, including the administration’s imposition of mask mandates and the extension of a moratorium on evictions, which were later stuck in court. One particular target is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a top medical adviser to the Trump and Biden administrations who has emerged as a villain to Mr. Trump’s supporters.
And they listed a range of other topics they intend to pursue, including the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan and increased migration across the southwestern border; another frequently mentioned target is Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
Late last year, Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said in a podcast that because House Democrats had impeached Mr. Trump twice — for refusing military aid to the Ukraine while urging it to open an investigation into the Bidens, and for ‘inciting insurrection’ over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot – ‘there will be enormous pressure on a Republican House to initiates impeachment proceedings” against Mr. Biden, “whether justified or not”.
It remains to be seen whether Democrats will lose one or both chambers in the midterm elections, giving Republicans the power to launch investigations and seek subpoenas. Polls have suggested Republicans are well positioned, but events — like the likelihood that Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices will soon end women’s constitutional right to abortion — could upend the political dynamics before november.
Still, the party that doesn’t control the presidency usually does well mid-term. The decision to hire Mr. Sauber comes as Republicans chant in conservative media and in town halls across the country of their intention to launch fierce surveillance efforts if they return to power in 2023.
Mr. Sauber, a former Justice Department prosecutor, is expected to start at the White House in several weeks, people familiar with the matter said. He spent years at the law firm Robbins Russell in Washington, where he specialized in representing companies and individuals facing investigations by Congress and other governments.
Among his clients was Susan Rice, a senior official in the Obama and Biden administrations during the Republican-led investigation into the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. Another was Mary L. Schapiro, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 2011 when she was under the scrutiny of Congress and an inspector general.
Mr. Sauber, known as Dick, will have the title of “special adviser to the president,” which no other White House lawyer in the Biden administration has had, the people said. That reflects the elevated role his oversight portfolio is expected to have next year compared to what it has been under the attorney he succeeds, Jonathan Su, an assistant White House counsel.
“Dick is an excellent lawyer who brings decades of experience that will be a valuable asset,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, said in a statement, adding that “we are ensuring that the White House is prepared for the problems we face or will face in the future.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough praised Sauber’s work at the department. “He has a deep understanding of government,” McDonough said in a statement, noting he would be a welcome addition to the White House.
The White House also added Mr. Sams to focus full-time on oversight matters. During the 2020 election cycle, he served as campaign spokesperson for Kamala Harris, who was then a Democratic presidential candidate and is now vice president. Mr. Sams then worked for the Department of Health and Human Services on issues related to the pandemic.
As part of the planning sessions with the White House, Bauer also discussed the possibility of bringing in outside firms with particular expertise to assist him, according to people briefed on the talks.
Mr. Bauer, who now teaches at New York University Law School, was one of the top lawyers for Senate Democrats during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. In 2011, he was the White House counsel to President Barack Obama when Republicans took power in the House and began investigating cases like the botched “Fast and Furious” gun smuggling case.
Republicans who support Trump expect them to turn the tide next year, especially given the level of scrutiny House Democrats have exerted on Mr. Trump and his administration: two years of Congressional investigations leading to the two impeachments, followed by the January 6 committee investigation into the former president’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Rep. James R. Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the oversight committee, has also pledged to investigate Hunter Biden’s dealings and a cache of files believed to have come from a laptop Mr. Biden dropped in a repair shop. (People familiar with the matter have authenticated some emails from his hard drive to The New York Times, but numerous files attributed to him are circulating, and it’s unclear whether all of them are legitimate.)
Mr. Comer said on Monday he believed the promise of an investigation into Mr. Biden’s son would boost Republican turnout midterm. Voters have “long suspected that Hunter Biden was a sleazy businessman,” he said, suggesting without evidence that the pair had been “compromised” by Russian oligarchs.
The Justice Department is looking into whether Hunter Biden violated tax and foreign lobbying laws, a matter that is expected to be resolved in the coming months. Regardless of what Attorney General Merrick B. Garland decides, he is likely to be accused by Republicans of giving preferential treatment to the president’s son.
Still, Republicans are divided on whether it is already a good idea to talk about impeachment.
In April, Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican from North Carolina, told TNZT News there were “lots” of grounds to impeach Mr. Biden, citing the border crisis, Afghanistan and other ways he said the president had committed offenses “against the heart and soul of this country. The dilemma, Mr. Murphy said, was that Ms. Harris, who would become president if Mr. Biden was impeached, was worse off.
A few days later, a TNZT News host played this clip for Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who will likely become president if Republicans take the House, and asked him if he would act to impeach Mr. Biden. Mr McCarthy, the Minority Leader, accused Democrats of using impeachment “for political reasons”, which he said Republicans would not do. Still, he has vowed to hold the Biden administration accountable and follow the facts.
“We believe in the rule of law,” McCarthy said. “We’re not going to choose just because someone has the power. We will enforce the law. At any time, if someone breaks the law and the offshoot becomes an impeachment, we would head for that. But we are not going to use it for political purposes.
But his comments drew immediate rebukes from a range of right-wing commentators and some lawmakers who had previously approved impeachment resolutions. As the fallout from the January 6 attack showed – Mr McCarthy initially said he would tell Mr Trump to quit, but then turned to kiss him – he is used to to bow to the winds of his party.
Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.
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