Note: This article originally appeared in USA Today.
When he told the president that a “real lawyer” takes notes, then-White House counsel Don McGahn showed he understood a lawyer’s proper function. He knew that a lawyer’s job is to advise clients about what the law allows and also what it prohibits. Notes are a symbol of a deeper reality — that truth and facts are at the core of the rule of law, and that lawyers are the guardians of those values.
President Donald Trump’s ongoing assault on the rule of law seeks most basically to prevent lawyers from performing this role. Leading up to the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, we saw multiple news accounts, some based on unidentified administration officials and other sources, about a president directing law enforcement agents to ignore judicial orders; working to hollow out a vital domestic law enforcement agency, the Department of Homeland Security, because its leaders will not bend to his will; and suggesting that he will punish his political opponents by targeting them for adverse actions.