Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fred Fielding To Be New WH Counsel

With the good chance that the White House will be facing serious inquiries into administration malfeasance, Bush has selected a longtime Washington legal type to guide him through perilous waters.

President Bush has selected Fred F. Fielding to be his White House counsel, recruiting a seasoned Washington veteran to represent the president with Democratic congressional investigators and reprise the job he held under Ronald Reagan, sources close to the process said yesterday.

The White House plans to announce the appointment today, just days after longtime Bush loyalist Harriet Miers was eased out as the president's top lawyer in preparation for the anticipated struggle with a new Democratic Congress eager to investigate the administration. ...

Fielding served as deputy to White House counsel John W. Dean III under President Richard M. Nixon and was the first to tell Dean about the Watergate break-in. Yet Fielding was one of the few to emerge untainted by Watergate. In fact, he was suspected, wrongly, of being "Deep Throat," the inside source who helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the scandal.

Fielding served as White House counsel for Reagan from 1981 to 1986, handling a spate of conflict-of-interest situations and telling Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig he was wrong to assert that he had command authority when the president was shot. Fielding was Bush's transition counsel after the 2000 election, vetting the backgrounds of new administration officials. And he served as a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. ...

(Richard Ben-Veniste, a Watergate prosecutor who served with Fielding on the Sept. 11 commission) said Fielding sometimes played intermediary with the White House in conflicts over the release of information to the commission. "At times, Fred was somewhat dismayed by the positions taken by White House counsel and other agencies," Ben-Veniste said. "But by the same token, he was someone with whom the White House was in frequent contact."

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