TIME White House

Obama’s New Bodyguard: Mr. Issa, Meet Mr. Eggleston

Sara Taylor testifies before Congress
Former White House political director Sara Taylor (R) confers with her attorney Neil Eggleston (L) at a hearing of the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. USA on 11 July 2007. STEFAN ZAKLIN—EPA

The new White House counsel is an expert at managing Congressional investigations in high-profile cases

Perhaps the best indicator of what the final two years of the Obama presidency will be like came Monday with the announcement that Obama had chosen W. Neil Eggleston as his White House counsel.

A former lawyer for Bill Clinton’s White House, Eggleston continues a return of veterans of the 90’s like John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri to the Obama team. More importantly from Obama’s point of view, Eggleston’s client list over the last 20 years includes top players in some of the messiest, highest-stakes fights in Washington.

Eggleston represented two Clinton administration cabinet officials in corruption cases and Hillary Clinton’s close aide Cheryl Mills during the controversy over Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. He was Rahm Emanuel’s lawyer when former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was being investigated for selling Obama’s vacated Senate seat in 2008-9.

It is his work during the Bush administration that offers the best foretaste of Obama’s final two years, however. During the scandal over the allegedly politically-motivated firing of U.S. prosecutors, Eggleston deftly represented Karl Rove’s aide and former White House political director, Sara Taylor, in negotiations over her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Eggleston was also hired by Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, during the lobbying scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff. Reed served as a pass-through for money from Abramoff’s Indian tribal clients, and Abramoff asked Reed to arrange access to Karl Rove early in the Bush presidency. Once Congress began investigating Abramoff, Reed hired Eggleston to represent him as he cooperated with the Congressional inquiry.

The Obama administration has faced a number of Congressional investigations over the years, including an ongoing one by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa into alleged politically motivated behavior at the IRS. Issa’s committee has charged a mid-level IRS official with contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on Fifth Amendment grounds. Issa previously charged Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt for refusing to provide documents in the Fast and Furious case. Last week, Issa announced he was probing the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to revise questions regarding health insurance coverage, saying the adjustments “could be used in misleading arguments about the coverage impact of the affordable care act.”

If Republicans win the Senate next year, such conflicts between the legislative and executive branches are sure to increase. With Eggleston, Obama will now have one of the best in the business on his end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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