For six years, the Bush White House enjoyed a free ride from Congress during an era of one-party rule. Shortly after the Democrats took control over the House and Senate after the 2006 midterm elections, the White House began bracing itself for increased oversight. But back in January, the White House originally believed that its legal staff would not necessarily have to be expanded to deal with a new Congress:
Bush is moving quickly to fill vacancies within his stable of lawyers, though White House officials say there are no plans to drastically expand the legal staff to deal with a flood of oversight. “No, at this point, no,” Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said recently. “We’ll have to see what happens.” Snow rebutted the notion that Bush is casting about for legal advice in the wake of his party’s loss of control of the Congress. “We don’t have a war room set up where we’re … dialing the 800 numbers of law firms,” he said. […]
People familiar with the counsel’s office caution against reading too much into the new additions, saying that Bush has yet to go on a hiring spree akin to President Bill Clinton’s when he faced impeachment.
Times have changed. A mere six months later, the White House has found itself consumed by scandals of its own making. From the partisan purge of U.S. attorneys to the “lost” Rove emails to potentially illegal partisan briefings at federal agencies, the White House has subjected itself to intense scrutiny from congressional investigators due to its careless disregard for the law.
As a result, the White House has been forced to expand its legal staff to levels it had not anticipated:
[White House counsel Fred] Fielding has so far created five new positions for lawyers, and filled another handful of existing slots. He has expanded the size of the White House counsel’s office to 22 lawyers — about the size of former President Bill Clinton’s White House team handling his second-term investigations and policy challenges. […]
“The workload and the need for additional attorneys is generated by Congress,” said Joel Kaplan, Bush’s deputy chief of staff for policy. “Fred is looking for the right mix and skill sets to deal with the particular challenges that come from divided government and from the Congress being in the hands of the other party. The counsel’s office is dealing with really an avalanche of requests.”
The presence of more lawyers, however, does not erase past wrongdoing.