If Democrats lose the Senate this fall, Barack Obama loses the lynchpin of his lawlessness. The Senate in Harry Reid’s grubby hands has killed Obamacare repeal bills by the bushel and keeps every possibility of holding Obama accountable at bay. But the Senate in GOP hands can, and likely will, open a slew of investigations that have been locked in the House or stymied outright up to now. For Obama, facing a House Oversight Committee investigation into the IRS scandal is one thing. Facing investigations in both the House and Senate, and the probability of select committees investigating various things, with John McCain and a newly empowered Ted Cruz and Mike Lee baying at him, is another thing entirely.
The Senate can impeach.* I don’t expect that to actually happen, but the threat alone is bracing. As long as Harry Reid controlled the Senate, there was no threat at all.
Now, with polls showing the Democrats’ Senate majority in major trouble, Barack Obama is lawyering up.
President Obama on Monday said he has selected W. Neil Eggleston to become chief counsel, adding the expertise of a veteran attorney who was involved in some of the most heated legal battles of the Clinton administration.
Eggleston, a white-collar defender who is now at Kirkland & Ellis, will replace departing White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler in mid-May.
“Neil brings extraordinary expertise, credentials, and experience, to our team,” Obama said in a statement. “He has a passion for public service, is renowned for his conscientiousness and foresight, and I look forward to working closely with him in the coming years.”
And, he helped defend scandal-scarred Bill Clinton.
Obama’s departing counsel may also find herself under investigation.
When an IRS audit found that the tax collection agency had been targeting conservative political groups, it was Ruemmler’s decision not to tell the president about the findings, in an attempt to shield Obama from charges he interfered in the investigation.
She also advised the president to resist congressional demands to release draft talking points following last year’s attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, infuriating congressional Republicans.
*Some quibbling in comments over this sentence. The House files charges and conducts impeachment trials, but the Senate votes whether to convict or not. If the Senate convicts, removal from office is automatic. So it’s the Senate that is essentially the jury and does the removing. I don’t see any of this happening during Obama’s last two years in office, but the fact has been that Reid’s control of the Senate has allowed Obama to get away with an awful lot.