To overcome legal dilemmas, Biden relies on low-key advice

WASHINGTON – Electoral trials are increasing day by day. An obscure federal agency blocking the presidential transition. The very legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory stormed as supporters of Donald Trump riot on Capitol Hill.

Amid all the turmoil, attorney Dana Remus was the voice of calm for Team Biden.

Fighting on multiple fronts as Biden’s best lawyer during the presidential transition, Remus made a lasting impression on her colleagues with her ability to block out noise as she battled legal challenges and pushed the selection of candidates forward. Cabinet and the judiciary. Now she’s the lawyer for the White House.

“You could be in the middle of the hustle and bustle and having a conversation with her, and the kind of atmospheric anxiety doesn’t interfere with the legal issues you face,” recalls Andrew Wright, who worked with Remus during the transition. “She’s not panicking, which is always a good thing with a lawyer.”

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Perhaps Remus’ most difficult task is yet to come: guiding Biden as the White House supports efforts to investigate and hold accountable those involved in the January 6 insurgency, while avoiding setting a precedent that could weaken the office of the presidency for generations to come.

Colleagues say the president would struggle to find a better suited lawyer at this time.

His office has helped Biden navigate legal decisions on pandemic policy, led the administration’s efforts to make more judicial appointments at this point than any president since Richard Nixon, and offered advice on the way the president’s adult son, Hunter Biden, can go about it. sell his paintings without creating conflicts of interest.

Prior to working for Biden, Remus, 46, spent years as a forensic and ethics expert in academia and was President Barack Obama’s chief ethics counsel for the past 14 months of his presidency. Her stint as Biden’s general counsel in the 2020 election was her first campaign job.

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“I think what his credentials and experience reflect is a clear determination by President Biden after the Trump administration’s four years of scandal and confusion that he was going to have a top-notch lawyer with a A solid background in ethics serves as an advisor to the White House, ”White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said.

The work of Remus and his deputies has not gone without criticism, including hits on how the administration proceeded with the extension. a moratorium on evictions during a pandemic even after a majority of Supreme Court justices signaled they would reject any further extensions without congressional permission.

Republicans and ethics lawyers have also pilloried the White House over the establishment of the sale of Hunter Biden artwork. Obama-era Ethics Bureau chief Walter Schaub called the artistic arrangement “the perfect mechanism for channeling bribes” to the president.

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The road ahead for Remus becomes increasingly difficult as lawmakers investigating the January 6 insurgency move forward.

Biden has been asked to approve the early release of a vast body of Trump administration documents, some of which detail the internal decision-making process of the last administration, which is typically protected by executive privilege. Biden has already approved publication of the first set of documents, a decision that Trump is in court trying to block.

Trump argues that the files should be protected by Biden and the courts, and says allowing new presidents to open the coffers of their predecessors so quickly would undermine the presidency. It’s a risk Biden is taking that could come back to haunt him in an increasingly acrimonious Washington, if his successor chooses to publish his papers sooner.

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Biden, guided by Remus, tried to preserve his ability to protect his own privilege, with the argument that the extraordinary circumstances of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election results warranted lifting of the privilege.

Remus, in a letter this month calling on the National Archives to release internal Trump documents, stressed that the request was made under “unique and extraordinary circumstances” as “Congress examines an attack on our Constitution and democratic institutions”. She consulted the Office of the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Justice to prepare her opinion to the President.

Neil Eggleston, White House adviser in the Obama administration, thinks Remus’ legal reasoning is sound. Still, he said the timing was delicate for the institution of the presidency.

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“Whenever there is a precedent, you kind of worry: is it going to be misused in the future? Said Eggleston, who hired Remus in 2015 to serve as an ethics lawyer in the Obama White House.

Remus’ work in the White House impressed Obama, who hired her to serve as general counsel for his post-presidency foundation. Obama officiated at his marriage to Brett Holmgren, a national security official in his administration. The two, who have a young son, met while working at the Obama White House.

Holmgren is now Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

In the West Wing, Remus was able to deliver messages that Biden and senior officials don’t always want to hear.

“She’s not one of those lawyers who use the law as a stick to prevent creative policy making, and so when she delivers a harsh message – the ‘actually, we can’t do that’ – I think let people know this comes from a place of honest legal analysis, ”said Susan Rice, White House domestic policy adviser.

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His colleagues say Remus, who was an Academic All-American on his senior year at Harvard team, hates the spotlight. She declined to comment for this story.

Her friends say she is unfailingly loyal. After Tory Judge Samuel Alito, for whom she was a clerk, was savage in a 2013 Washington Post column, Remus and another former office worker wrote a letter to the editor defending him.

Michael Bosworth, an attorney who worked with Remus in the White House council office in the Obama administration, said she had a knack for soliciting diverse opinions because “she wants to make a really informed decision that is fair on the facts and fair on the law. “

In assembling his team of 33 for Biden’s attorney’s office, Remus emphasized three qualities: kindness, diversity and the ability to work as a team, officials said. The office is 65% female, 20% LGBTQ +, 40% people of color and the majority of them have a background of public interest.

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White House officials say Remus’ efforts to diversify the judiciary are one of the president’s least-appreciated early successes, as he pledged as a candidate to make his government more representative of America.

Over 70% of the nominees are women and the majority of the choices have been people of color. Remus also placed a particular emphasis on looking beyond large law firms and prosecutors to find candidates with backgrounds as public defenders, voting rights litigators, and other public interest experiences. .

In the White House, Biden has surrounded himself with senior advisers he has known and relied on for years. Still, White House officials say Remus has managed to break through even though she is not part of his inner circle.

“He knows when she’s coming, she’s there to give him legal advice – not friendship advice, not political advice but legal advice,” Klain said. “I think a certain professional detachment in this relationship is a better way to have this.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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