The Lawyers Always Win

“The civil service is under greater assault than at any time since reforms of the eighteen-eighties.”

Fiona Hill, a coal miner’s daughter from northern England, earned master’s and PhD degrees in history from Harvard University. She became a U.S. citizen in 2002. Hill worked in the research department at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and as a national intelligence analyst for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council. She was was an intelligence analyst under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Early in 2017 the current occupant of the White House appointed Dr. Hill to the National Security Council as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs. She served in that position until she resigned in July, 2019.

Responding to a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, Fiona Hill testified for ten hours in a closed-door hearing on October 14, 2019 as part of the impeachment inquiry. She testified publicly before the same body on November 21, 2019. For her trouble, she received insults from the president, death threats from his supporters and six-figure bills from attorneys. Those who supposedly know estimate her legal fees at somewhere between four hundred and five hundred thousand dollars.

Other State Department career employees who provided such riveting testimony during the House impeachment hearings face similar lawyers’ fees.

The State Department announced that it will provide relief to its employees. The Department will cover attorney’s fees of $300 per hour up to 120 hours a month – $36,000.

Partners at top firms experienced in these matters charge up to $1,200 per hour, “associates” $800 or so. When one needs to engage a team of lawyers, well, it gets expensive.

The American Foreign Service Association, the union representing State Department employees, has set up a legal-defense fund. So far a bit more than $250,000 has been donated. Some public-spirited attorneys from both political parties are working for reduced fees and, in some cases pro bono. The lead lawyer for Marie Yovanovitch, former Ambassador to Ukraine, said, “Unless you’re a full-time public-interest lawyer, you get only a few chances to take cases that you strongly believe in. I took the case because this is why I went to law school.”

Impeachment Primer

“A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” – Eldbridge Gerry (Massachusetts), later elected to the House of Representatives; served as Vice-President under James Madison.

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” – Article 2, Section 4
Step one: the House of Representatives by simple majority passes Articles of Impeachment, laying out the alleged offenses of the impeached officeholder. Step two: the trial is held in the Senate. In the case of the president, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides, otherwise the President of the Senate aka the Vice-President. (The Constitution does not specify; inferring it would be the usual presiding officer.) A two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove from office. Conviction by the Senate does not disallow criminal prosecution.

Continue reading “Impeachment Primer”