The White House has expanded its legal team to handle the fights it is having with the new Democratic Congress.
Since becoming President Bush's new lawyer in February, Fred Fielding has created five new positions in the White House counsel's office, expanding the staff to 22 lawyers, the White House said on Friday. Fielding also has filled a handful of empty desks in his office.
Fielding is strengthening the staff to deal with an avalanche of requests the White House is getting from lawmakers investigating the flap over the firings of U.S. attorneys, missing e-mails, prewar intelligence and other matters.
Democrats, who are ramping up their legal staffs on Capitol Hill too, have threatened to issue subpoenas if the White House doesn't produce certain information. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, for instance, has hired several new oversight counsels after the Democrats took over to handle oversight work.
"We hope that the additional staff leads to more cooperation with our requests rather than confrontation and stonewalling," said Melanie Roussell, a committee spokeswoman.
Asked about the congressional requests, White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said: "While we believe some requests are legitimate, we believe others are unfortunate fishing expeditions."
She said the new lawyers bring with them an array of experience — from the Supreme Court to Capitol Hill, the private sector to the military. "Our goal is to simply have the right people in place to adequately address issues that come our way," she said.
Fielding's new deputy counsel is J. Michael Farren, corporate vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Xerox Corp. He replaces Bill Kelley, who has been scheduled to return to his position at Notre Dame University's law school at the end of the month.