A former senior Trump administration official, who declined to be named, told CNBC that the White House is prepared for what may come — and hasn’t given up on the fight for Congress.
“One, I think the White House is bullish on winning the congressional election,” the former official said. “Two, in the event that they don’t win, in the event that Democrats take over Congress, oversight is something that the opposing party has used against administrations for years.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The former official said that it was “telling” that the White House hired Emmet Flood in May. Flood, who was tapped to lead the White House’s legal response to Mueller’s Russia probe, is a veteran of the Washington legal establishment who has largely avoided the limelight since joining the Trump team. Flood advised Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings. His firm, Williams & Connolly, represented Hillary Clinton.
“Flood has experience and respect in Washington, and handled very high-profile oversight matters and congressional inquiries,” the former official said. The former official said Flood “is certainly prepared to handle whatever” Democrats throw his way.
The former official suggested that executive privilege claims would be “front and center when dealing with oversight.”
Executive privilege could be a tricky defense against inquiries into matters that do not directly pertain to the White House, said Daniel Jacobson, a former lawyer in Obama’s office of White House Counsel.
“They can bring in the best lawyers they want, but at the end of the day they won’t be able to stop Congress from doing its job,” he said.
Presidents have often claimed executive privilege — or the right to withhold information to protect the public interest — to keep information from Congress, though the claim can be challenged in court. In 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Obama’s claim of executive privilege during the “Fast and Furious” controversy.
Jacobson noted that the extent of the damage that Democrats may be able to do has not been fully realized, because “the public only sees what it sees.”
“The current Congress shielding the administration from public hearings has had a huge impact that you just haven’t seen,” he said.