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White House Counsel
Incumbent
Ed Siskel
since September 11, 2023
Formation1943
First holderSamuel Rosenman

The White House counsel is a senior staff appointee of the president of the United States whose role is to advise the president on all legal issues concerning the president and their administration. The White House counsel also oversees the Office of White House Counsel, a team of lawyers and support staff who provide legal guidance for the president and the White House Office. At least when White House counsel is advising the president on legal matters pertaining to the duties or prerogatives of the president, this office is also called Counsel to the President.[1]

Ed Siskel is the current White House Counsel, serving since September 11, 2023.

Responsibilities

The Office of Counsel to the President and Vice President was created in 1943, and is responsible for advising on all legal aspects of policy questions; legal issues arising in connection with the president's decision to sign or veto legislation, ethical questions, financial disclosures; and conflicts of interest during employment and post employment. The counsel's office also helps define the line between official and political activities, oversees executive appointments and judicial selection, handles presidential pardons, reviews legislation and presidential statements, and handles lawsuits against the president in his role as president, as well as serving as the White House contact for the Department of Justice.

Limitations

Although the White House counsel offers legal advice to the president and vice president, the counsel does so in the president's and vice president's official capacity, and does not serve as the president's personal attorney. Therefore, controversy has emerged over the scope of the attorney–client privilege between the counsel and the president and vice president, namely with John Dean of Watergate notoriety. It is clear, however, that the privilege does not apply in strictly personal matters. It also does not apply to legislative proceedings by the U.S. Congress against the president due to allegations of misconduct while in office, such as formal censures or impeachment proceedings. In those situations the president relies on a personal attorney if he desires confidential legal advice. The office is also distinct from the judiciary, and from others who are not appointed to positions but nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. These would be foremost the attorney general of the United States, and the principal deputy and other assistants, who are nominated by the president to oversee the United States Department of Justice, or the solicitor general of the United States and staff (the solicitor general is the fourth-ranking official in the Justice Department), who argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court (and in lower federal courts) for the Justice Department when it is a party to the case.

List of White House counsels

Image Name Start End President
Samuel Rosenman October 2, 1943 February 1, 1946 Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Clark Clifford February 1, 1946 January 31, 1950
Charles Murphy January 31, 1950 January 20, 1953
Tom Stephens January 20, 1953
On leave
April 14, 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Bernard Shanley January 20, 1953
Acting: January 20, 1953 – April 14, 1953
February 19, 1955
Gerald Morgan February 19, 1955 November 5, 1958
David Kendall November 5, 1958 January 20, 1961
Ted Sorensen January 20, 1961 February 29, 1964 John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Mike Feldman April 1964 January 17, 1965
Lee White January 17, 1965 February 11, 1966
Milton Semer February 14, 1966 December 31, 1966
Harry McPherson February 11, 1966 October 26, 1967
Larry Temple October 26, 1967 January 20, 1969
John Ehrlichman January 20, 1969 November 4, 1969 Richard Nixon
Chuck Colson November 6, 1969 July 9, 1970
John Dean July 9, 1970 April 30, 1973
Len Garment April 30, 1973 August 9, 1974
Philip Buchen August 9, 1974 January 20, 1977 Gerald Ford
Robert Lipshutz January 20, 1977 October 1, 1979 Jimmy Carter
Lloyd Cutler October 1, 1979 January 20, 1981
Fred Fielding January 20, 1981 May 23, 1986 Ronald Reagan
Peter Wallison May 23, 1986 March 20, 1987
Arthur Culvahouse March 20, 1987 January 20, 1989
Boyden Gray January 20, 1989 January 20, 1993 George H. W. Bush
Bernard Nussbaum January 20, 1993 March 8, 1994 Bill Clinton
Lloyd Cutler March 8, 1994 October 1, 1994
Abner Mikva October 1, 1994 November 1, 1995
Jack Quinn November 1, 1995 February 1997
Chuck Ruff February 1997 August 6, 1999
Cheryl Mills
Acting
August 6, 1999 September 1999
Beth Nolan September 1999 January 20, 2001
Alberto Gonzales January 20, 2001 February 3, 2005 George W. Bush
Harriet Miers February 3, 2005 January 31, 2007
Fred Fielding January 31, 2007 January 20, 2009
Greg Craig January 20, 2009 January 3, 2010 Barack Obama
Bob Bauer January 3, 2010 June 30, 2011
Kathy Ruemmler June 30, 2011 June 2, 2014
Neil Eggleston June 2, 2014 January 20, 2017
Don McGahn January 20, 2017 October 17, 2018 Donald Trump
Emmet Flood
Acting
October 18, 2018 December 10, 2018
Pat Cipollone December 10, 2018 January 20, 2021
Dana Remus January 20, 2021 July 1, 2022 Joe Biden
Stuart Delery July 1, 2022 September 11, 2023
Ed Siskel September 11, 2023 present

References

  1. ^ Letter from Dana A. Remus, Counsel to the President, to Daniel Ferreiro, Archivist of the United States, dated October 8, 2021, issued by The White House as a Release on October 12, 2021. See also, letter of Darell Issa, then Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to W. Neil Eggleston, then "Counsel to the President," dated July 11, 2014, which letter appears as the 2nd item in the Appendix to the record of the July 16, 2014 session of a Hearing of said House Committee.