When you started your job as White House counsel, who did you think you were representing, and how did you conceive of it by the end of your tenure?
Throughout my tenure, it was totally confused as to who the client was. Nixon thought I was his personal lawyer, and had me doing such things as coordinating two different law firms—one in New York and one in California—to do his estate plan, which couldn’t be anything more personal. [H.R.] Haldeman and [John] Ehrlichman, the chief of staff and top domestic advisor thought they were my clients, too, because I communicated to the president through them.
So did that ever switch in your mind?
By the time I go in to tell the president that there is a cancer on the presidency, I am worried not just about the man, but the office. This was as fuzzy for all organizations as it was for the White House. It was one of the lasting reforms that came out of Watergate. It is why, for example, Bill Clinton had private counsel represent him in the Lewinsky matter. And he also had the White House counsel representing the office. It has been cleaned up and cleared up and McGahn is doing exactly the right thing. He is representing the office.