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White House adds lawyers for Congress’ probes
The White House yesterday said it has hired several lawyers to help with an increasing number of investigations by the Democratic-controlled Congress, some of which the Bush administration calls "fishing expeditions."
"Obviously, there's been an increase in requests for information, some which we believe to be legitimate, and some which we believe to be unfortunate fishing expeditions," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore.
President Bush has appointed nine new lawyers, but most of them already had started working for the administration within the past few months.
White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding has added three lawyers to his staff since early April, bringing the total to 22.
"We want to make sure we have the right people in place to adequately address issues and requests for information that come our way," Miss Lawrimore said.
Yesterday's announcement, Miss Lawrimore said, was timed to coincide with the arrival of J. Michael Farren, deputy White House counsel, who began work last week.
The Bush administration has speculated since last November — when Democrats took control of Congress — that Democrats would use their committee chairmanships and accompanying subpoena power to come after the president.
Mr. Fielding, who worked in President Nixon's White House counsel's office and emerged unscathed, and later was President Reagan's top attorney, was brought aboard in January to replace Harriet Miers, a longtime ally of Mr. Bush from his Texas days.
Mr. Fielding has faced down Democratic requests for public testimony from presidential adviser Karl Rove, in the U.S. attorneys matter, offering private interviews with no transcript and nothing more.
Democrats have cried foul. But without evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the firing of U.S. attorneys, they have little ground to stand on if they were to issue subpoenas and the matter went to court.
Three committees in particular are requesting information — documents, e-mail records, interviews — with particular vigor. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, are pursuing the U.S. attorneys investigation.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, is conducting probes of the administration's pre-war intelligence, the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, political presentations by the administration to nonpolitical appointees at federal agencies, and the matter of missing e-mails sent by Mr. Rove and others in the administration.
Democrats will take another shot at the Bush administration Monday when they hold an hourlong debate on a resolution expressing no confidence in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
The hour of debate, scheduled for 4:30 p.m., will be followed by a vote on whether to cut off debate and proceed to a final vote, which is technically called cloture.
One high-ranking GOP aide said the resolution, sponsored by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has no chance of gaining enough votes to even proceed to a vote.
"They will not get cloture," the aide said. "They don't expect to get cloture. They want the headline."
Here are the other eight lawyers that Mr. Fielding has added to the White House Counsel's office:
c William Burck, deputy assistant to the president and special counsel to the president
c Emmet Flood, deputy assistant to the president and special counsel to the president
c Scott Coffina, associate counsel to the president
c Amy F. Dunathan, associate counsel to the president
c Francis Q. Hoang, associate counsel to the president
c Al Lambert, associate counsel to the president
c Michael Purpura, associate counsel to the president
c Kate Todd, associate counsel to the president
By Brahma Chellaney
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