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Former President Donald Trump has begun to assemble a team to handle incoming document requests during his upcoming impeachment trial, much to the chagrin of his political opponents.
“Trump has selected his most recent White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, three White House lawyers who represented him during the early 2020 Senate impeachment trial, and the Justice Department’s former top attorney to serve as gatekeepers to his official government records,” Business Insider reported Thursday.
“Trump named seven representatives to represent him in matters involving his records, the Archives press office told Insider on Thursday. They include Meadows, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former National Security Council legal advisor John Eisenberg, and former head of DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel,” the report continued.
“Trump also named three lawyers who worked for him as deputy White House counsels: Patrick Philbin, Scott Gast, and Michael Purpura.”
While it’s tradition for outgoing presidents to mobilize a team to handle future document requests, the president’s picks are particularly important because they’ll be his only defense from the hands of the Senate Democrats seeking to dig deeply into his White House records.
That his picks include some of the same lawyers who’d successfully defended him during the Democrats’ first impeachment trial last year, naturally provoked anger from the left.
“The people on this list were the same lawyers from the White House counsel’s office who took extreme positions against Congress and refused to produce docs in the first impeachment,” Obama era White House counsel Neil Eggleston reportedly complained.
Yet Eggleston’s past boss, former President Barack Hussein Obama, did the same thing, as once noted by Trump.
“President Obama, from what they tell me, was under a similar kind of a thing. They didn’t give one letter. They didn’t do anything. They didn’t give one letter of the requests. Many requests were made. They didn’t give a letter,” he said in 2019.
The Obama administration put so much effort into blocking information and documents that even The Washington Post described it as “one of the most secretive” in American history.
“After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, this has been one of the most secretive. And in certain ways, one of the most elusive. It’s also been one of the most punitive toward whistleblowers and leakers who want to bring light to wrongdoing they have observed from inside powerful institutions,” the Post reported in 2016.
“The Obama administration in its final year in office spent a record $36.2 million on legal costs defending its refusal to turn over federal records under the Freedom of Information Act, according to an … analysis of new U.S. data that also showed poor performance in other categories measuring transparency in government,” CBS News added in its own report a year later.
“For a second consecutive year, the Obama administration set a record for times federal employees told citizens, journalists, and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page of files that were requested.”
Dovetailing back to the present, Trump’s team will be instrumental in ensuring Democrats are only able to see what they’re allowed to see.
“Trump’s records officially became the property of the National Archives and Records Administration when he left office on Wednesday. … Even though the Archives gets immediate access to all of Trump’s records from draft speeches to national-security memos, they aren’t subject to public Freedom of Information Act requests until five years after the end of the administration,” Business Insider noted.
Here’s the kicker: “The law also allows Trump or his representatives to use exemptions to restrict access to certain documents for up to 12 years after the end of an administration. That process wouldn’t change even if the US Senate votes at the conclusion of the upcoming impeachment trial to remove Trump from office and bars him from holding public office again, historians told Insider.”
The law is the law, though the ethics of the law as it stands are certainly up for debate.
Former Rep. Trey Gowdy became an overnight sensation in 2012, at which time he served as the chair of the House Oversight Committee when he forcefully called out the Obama administration for its own lack of transparency.
“The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something, irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles,” he said.
VIDEO – @TGowdySC in 2012: “The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something, irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles.” pic.twitter.com/A7xj4Iphxw
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) October 9, 2019
Last year Democrats seized on this quote to slam Gowdy, who’d already retired from Congress by that time, and afterword broke that he was considering joining Trump’s legal team. Apparently, they were unable to realize there’s a difference between Gowdy functioning as a congressman and him functioning as a private citizen.
Conversely, when days later Gowdy took Democrats’ side by defending their secret hearings, they of course gave him no credit.
🛑 BizPac Review News 🛑
👉 Trey Gowdy breaks from party to support Dems’ use of private hearings. Here is why … https://t.co/hVwt8VuD5Y
— ❌nuuzfeed (@nuuzfeed) October 28, 2019