Six former attorneys general speaking at an ABA panel this morning tended to agree that the communication between the Justice Department and the White House should be limited to a finite group of people to avoid inappropriate contact.
The growth of the White House counsel’s office has contributed to recent problems, said former AG Edwin Meese III, who served under President Ronald Reagan. Some other former AGs agreed.
“Trouble happens when you’re trying to run too much from the White House and the White House Counsel’s Office,” said William Barr, who led the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush.
Michael Mukasey, who served under President George W. Bush, said that when he came in as AG at the end of 2007, he had to reinstitute rules as to who could speak to the White House and who could not.
Inappropriate meddling by lower-level Justice Department and White House employees earlier in the Bush II administration was pinpointed as a major factor in the questionable firings of U.S. attorneys. Some "dumb things" were done there, said Meese.
In addition to Meese, Barr and Mukasey, the panel included John Ashcroft from the Bush II years, Benjamin Civiletti from the Carter years, and Dick Thornburgh, who served under Reagan and Bush I.