Trump’s Legal Team: “If the Law and the Facts Are Against You, Pound the Table and Yell Like Hell”

Folks in the White House keep telling Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt about imminent changes to his legal team.

March 10: Emmet Flood

On March 10, it was that the superb Emmet Flood — who among other things, kept Dick Cheney out of the pokey — would join his team. The possibility was based on a meeting (now over 10 days ago) described as “an overture.”

The lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office this past week to discuss the possibility, according to the people. No final decision has been made, according to two of the people.

Should Mr. Flood come on board, the two people said, his main duties would be a day-to-day role helping the president navigate his dealings with the Justice Department.

Two people close to the president said that the overture to Mr. Flood did not indicate any new concerns about the inquiry. Still, it appears, at the least, to be an acknowledgment that the investigation is unlikely to end anytime soon.

The story admitted that Flood had said no to a similar offer last summer, at such time when Flood might have set the legal strategy and established ground rules for his client.

As recently as the summer, Mr. Flood, who currently works at the law firm Williams & Connolly, turned down an opportunity to represent Mr. Trump. It is not clear what has changed since then.

It also claimed that Flood was the only lawyer the White House had approached.

Mr. Flood had been on the wish list of some of the president’s advisers to join his legal team last year, and he is the only person the White House has been in contact with about such a leading role.

It also included the bizarre notion that Ty Cobb’s job was meant to end as soon as the White House had turned over all the documents Robert Mueller wanted.

Mr. Cobb has told friends for weeks that he views his position as temporary and does not expect to remain in the job for much longer.

Mr. Cobb’s primary task — producing documents for Mr. Mueller and arranging for White House aides to meet with prosecutors — is largely complete.

March 19: Joseph Di Genova

Then, on Monday, Maggie and Mike reported that Joseph Di Genova would join the team. The former US Attorney wouldn’t actually be lawyering so much as pounding the table and inventing conspiracy theories (best as I can tell, pounding tables is supposed to be Trump’s current lawyer, Jay Sekulow’s job, but he seems to have taken to hiding under the bed of late).

Mr. diGenova, a former United States attorney, is not expected to take a lead role. But he will serve as an outspoken player for the president as Mr. Trump has increased his attacks on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Trump broke over the weekend from the longstanding advice of some of his lawyers that he refrain from directly criticizing Mr. Mueller, a sign of his growing unease with the investigation.

It’s just as well that Di Genova wouldn’t be doing any lawyering given that in 1997, he argued that sitting presidents could be indicted, a view that would make it easier for Mueller to charge his supposed client.

Somehow, this story didn’t explain a big puzzle about the hiring: how Di Genova could represent the president when his wife, Victoria Toensing, has represented three other people in the investigation, at least one of whom gave apparently damning testimony to Mueller’s investigators.

Mr. diGenova is law partners with his wife, Victoria Toensing. Ms. Toensing has also represented Sam Clovis, the former Trump campaign co-chairman, and Erik Prince, the founder of the security contractor Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump. Mr. Prince attended a meeting in January 2017 with a Russian investor in the Seychelles that the special counsel is investigating.

Ms. Toensing also represents Mark Corallo, the former spokesman for the Trump legal team who has accused one of the president’s advisers of potentially planning to obstruct justice with a statement related to a 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who supposedly had damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

While it’s certainly possible Di Genova could clear up the conflict with Clovis and Prince, Corallo reportedly testified that Hope Hicks, having met one-on-one with Trump, suggested that emails regarding the June 9, 2016 meeting could be buried.

March 20: Ted Olson

Then, today, multiple outlets claimed that Ted Olson was under consideration. That’d be weird, given that Trump wants to claim that Robert Mueller has conflicts on account of his association with Jim Comey, yet Olson was as integrally involved in the most famous Comey-Mueller event — the hospital hero challenge to Stellar Wind in 2004 — as Mueller was. Plus, Olson’s name is on the Supreme Court precedent that deemed even the more expansive special prosecutor statute constitutional.

Which is to say that Olson may be the best active Republican lawyer with the possible exception of his former deputy, Paul Clement (hey, why isn’t Clement being floated?), but it’s not clear he would help Trump much, even if he could get Trump to follow instructions.

Yet the pushback from Olson’s firm suggests he was never really considering this offer (which raises questions about whether Flood, who like Olson also considered and rejected the position last year, is taking this offer any more seriously). It seems Trump wants to create the appearance, at least, that serious lawyers will still consider representing him.

Trump’s existing lawyers prepare to bolt

As it turns out, Trump didn’t tell his existing lawyers about a number of these conversations. And even aside from the shit shingle they’re facing, particularly as it becomes clear to Trump they were lying to him all last year about how long this inquiry would be and how serious Trump’s jeopardy is, they’re all getting tired babysitting the president.

The hiring of diGenova on Monday, first reported by the New York Times, infuriated Dowd, who responded angrily to the development, according to people familiar with his reaction, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal details. Dowd views diGenova as pushing him to be the second chair rather than top dog on Trump’s legal team, these people said. But Dowd said in an email to a Post reporter that he’s perfectly happy with the new addition: “Love Joe.”

Dowd, however, has lost the confidence of many in the president’s orbit, both inside and outside the White House. In December, after Trump tweeted that he had fired his former national security adviser Michael Flynn because Flynn had lied to both the vice president and the FBI, Dowd later claimed that he was the one who had drafted the missive.

One outside adviser described Dowd as “the weakest link” in the team.

McGahn and Cobb have also had their share of tension. While Cobb has urged the president to cooperate with Mueller and hand over documents to his investigators, McGahn has pushed a more aggressive approach, according to people familiar with his work.

McGahn has said the legal team should make the special counsel subpoena every document, explain every interview and fight for every piece of information, one person said. A second White House aide said McGahn has questioned the constitutional status of the special counsel position.

But McGahn and Trump have also clashed repeatedly since entering the White House, and one former administration official said the president mused at least three times that perhaps he should hire a new counsel.

McGahn has told associates that he is exhausted and frustrated at times in the job, but that he has been able to make a historic impact on appointing judges and reducing regulations and that he would like to be around for a second Supreme Court opening, one friend said. McGahn also has a strong relationship with Kelly.

So Trump’s lawyers (with the possible exception of Don McGahn, who’ll stay so long as he can pack the courts with unqualified ideologues) want out, and none of the real lawyers he’s approaching want to have anything to do with him.

When Rick Gates ran his defense team like this, he had a way out: to flip on Paul Manafort and Trump himself.

But who will Trump flip on? Vladimir Putin?

This is the most remarkable thing to behold. The most powerful man in the world is having difficulties getting anyone but a washed out table-pounder to represent him in the most high profile investigation in recent years.

42 replies
    • Trip says:

      I would be okay with it if it somehow netted the Kochs, the Mercers, misc American oligarchs, plus Fox, Murdoch, McConnell, etc. But that is only a daydream.

  1. jayedcoins says:

    Sometimes I feel bad for enjoying this palace intrigue so much. But it really is “the most remarkable thing to behold.” That said, there have obviously already been significant, human costs as a result of the Trump presidency. I think the SCO investigation has proven to be not just legitimate, but deeply important and critical. But I hope that everyone is still chewing gum while they walk, and remembering to pay attention to local races, get to the polls, and choose the wave of progressive candidates that actually want to work harder to make our world a better place.

  2. TheraP says:

    Maybe if Kushner

    a) studies really hard

    b) at long last tries to take a bar exam

    c) manages to pass it

    d) lets Trump persuade him

    e) he could add ‘defense’ to his portfolio

  3. dutch says:

    Let’s hypothesize that Trump has been doing business with Russian Oligarchs (in other words Russian mobsters). It is not unreasonable to suppose that Trump, true to form, would have stiffed them the same as he has done to everyone else he has ever partnered with. Isn’t it likely that Trump needs to be president just to stay alive?

  4. Trip says:

    I kind of had the impression that Ty Cobb was really trying to be above board, not an actual fan of Donald, but attempting to placate him. He’s probably the cleanest of the bunch and therefore out the door.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This might be the first time in his life that Donald Trump has to live through the truism that what goes around, comes around.

  6. Avattoir says:

    Maybe he’s eligible for a court-appointed public attorney?

    I mean, it’d be hell on The Brand, but at least that way he’d be assured of having competent representation in any actual court setting.

    Or he could ask Jonathan Turley (Not saying I’d love to see JT roasted in court, but not saying I wouldn’t, either.).

  7. jayedcoins says:

    @Anne, I cannot seem to get the reply to your post to work, but I just wanted to say, 100% agree with you. Our kids are young (toddler and preschooler), so my part of the protest will be taking care of them, while my wife and her mom (a ~30 year public school employee) hit the bricks for the protest in Ann Arbor, MI.

  8. Anne says:

    @jayedcoins That’s wonderful!  I can’t wait, those Kids are amazing. (the context reply didn’t work for me this time, either.)

  9. Frank Probst says:

    I see three major issues for any attorney looking at Trump as a client:

    1. You might not get paid unless you’re getting the money up front, which seems unlikely to happen, so you should consider this a pro bono case when you take it.

    2. Both you and everyone else in DC is very much aware of the fact that you have an uncontrollable client. This makes it more difficult to defend him and therefore a lot more work for you to do (and probably not get paid for). The upside of this is the effect that this case will have on your reputation as an attorney. Almost any sort of win will help your reputation, because everyone expects your client to lose. Almost any sort of loss will likely be written off as being Trump’s fault. From this standpoint, you have a lot to gain and little to lose.

    3. But Trump isn’t just an uncontrollable client. He’s a malicious and vindictive little man, and he’s likely to blame any loss, no matter how small, on you as an attorney. So if he decides to fire you, you might not just get fired. You might get totally humiliated by waking up Sunday morning and learning from Twitter that you’ve not only been fired, but also that you’re a loser lawyer who never should have been hired in the first place, and that you have now been given a demeaning nickname by the most powerful man in the world. And that’s going to follow you for the rest of your life. So you have to ask yourself: Do I really want to be called “Brain Dead Ted” for the rest of my life? The answer there is almost certainly no.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      4. Mueller has shown a willingness to deploy the crime-fraud exception to require attorneys to testify about conversations that might otherwise be privileged. So if the Idiot lies to a lawyer in order to obstruct justice when the lawyer conveys those lies, and the special counsel has sufficient evidence from elsewhere to show that it’s deliberate deception or obstruction, it’s not going to end well.

  10. Bob Conyers says:

    I hadn’t realized Victoria Toensing was hired by some of the secondary figures. She is not somebody you would want representing you in court, nor someone you should count on for unbiased counsel. I remember hearing her on some NPR talk show opposite Jamie Gorelick, who did a stint crossing the aisle and representing Kushner. Gorelick came across as knowledgable and capable — you can see why Kushner would hire her. But Toensing was out of control — at one point she was hissing into the microphone as Gorelick was speaking, saying “she liessss!”

    Toensing has been busy lately pushing the Uranium One hoax and representing a supposed whistleblower, who turned out to be so unreliable the DOJ gave up on him. She’s been a major source for John Solomon’s ridiculous reporting on the issue for The Hill. But of course this all works in her favor for the Trump camp.

    • Kokuanani says:

      Gorelick continues to represent Kushner and his companies.  That side of the street is apparently quite comfortable.

  11. Peterr says:

    Folks in the White House keep telling Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt about imminent changes to his legal team.

    And M&M keep believing the folks in the White House. I guess when you’ve found good stenographers (you being both the WH and the Times [waves to Judy Miller]), you hold onto them.

    But who will Trump flip on?


    As Trump will tell anyone within earshot at any time, whenever anything illegal goes on, it somehow is always Crooked Hillary’s fault.



    • Avattoir says:

      Meanwhile, Mueller has arranged for multiple appellate specialists to commit to the OSC.

      And it’s not like their wasting their time making drats and trading war stories. They’re working concepts, design and motions.

  12. posaune says:

    In the meantime, Stormy Daniels has raised $275K in five days at crowd    And the comments are hilarious!

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Somebody tell Stephanie Ruhle and the rest of the MSM that an election is not a Catholic confessional. Winning it does not absolve the candidate of sin, not even that confessed during the campaign.

    An election victory means that a majority of those who voted preferred – as a package – one candidate over the other. The number of yes voters is commonly less than a majority of all citizens eligible to vote. It doesn’t mean most of those voters, let alone most Americans, knew about or forgave a candidate for any particular past conduct. At best, it means that what was known about that conduct at the time did not seem relevant to the job, or wasn’t as important as some other position or attribute the candidate claimed to have.

    Some Americans, fundamentalist follwers, for example, forgive their leader of ANY sin so long as he leads and wins. Many other Americans think that’s nonsense and a rejection of one’s obligation as a citizen. Regardless, Donald Trump’s conduct before he became president has not been litigated and forgiven. Being a candidate and being a winning politician is like being a stockbroker, in that you are only as good as you last stock pick. And liike being a parent, the job has to be renewed every day or you’re not doing it.

    Donald Trump’s past has not been fully debated. He seems to have spent millions to prevent that. Perhaps it’s time we examined that past and threw our findings into the hopper of whether he needs to be impeached or re-elected, and whether his followers should be terminated from their public employment in Congress.

  14. orionATL says:

    O.T. but relevant:

    i want to focus at least some attention on extraordinary predidential power relevant to trump ‘s manipulation of democratic and republican voters in 2016 election and his potential criminal conduct with respect to his business affairs.

    as things stand now, the president of the united states can, at will, without opposition, immediately terminate any government investigation into his own possible misconduct or criminal conduct. this is an extraordinary power that is completely unacceptable in any “rule of law” democratic society.

    this state of affairs is a clear indication and a premier example of the fact that over several decades the presidency has been gifted by congress and allowed by the courts to acrue much too much unchecked power. what was originally conceived as a presidency that functioned as weak adminidstrator has become effectively a dictator of many governing outcomes over which neither the congress nor the citizenry have much effective control.

    it’s time to change this imbalance of power and reign in the american presidency.

  15. Rugger9 says:

    That would actually require the compromised GOP Congress to put their country (which they swore an oath to do) before party (backsies!!!) and these guys are in it as deep as the Kaiser from Pence, McTurtle, LyinRyan on down, the whole caucus of whatever variety.  The tools are there, but the GOP is in it for themselves and will never use them.

  16. Fran of the North says:

    NYT & WaPo report that John Dowd resigns from Trump legal team because POTUS increasingly ignoring his advice.


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