Trump’s legal team – if you can call it that – turns out to be no match for Robert Mueller and his team of crack lawyers and investigators.
Former criminal investigator and criminal defense attorney, Seth Abramson, weighed in on Trump’s problems regarding legal representation earlier this week, followed up by a detailed analysis of Trump’s defenselessness by Slate.
As Abramson tweeted, “Trump effectively has no lawyers: (1) McGahn is a witness against him. (2) He no longer trusts Cobb and discusses firing him. (3) Dowd resigned. (4) DiGenova and Toensing chose not to join the team. (5) Sekulow is more activist than lawyer. (6) Cohen is mired in scandal.”
“Trump faces the biggest hurdle to the continuation of a presidency since Teapot Dome, and does so without effective legal counsel. That’s dangerous for the nation—as it means he’ll rely on radical advisors like Bolton, who’ll give him non-legal avenues to escape his problems.”
Continuing, Abramson discussed Trump’s well-known problem with hiring and retaining attorneys:
- “Dowd was Trump’s *personal* attorney (unlike Cobb and McGahn) and has now left the legal team—reportedly—because Trump no longer listens to him. That unwillingness to receive legal advice and follow it has led a veritable parade of Washington’s best lawyers to turn Trump down.
- “Emmet Flood turned Trump down. Ted Olsen turned Trump down. Media reports say several top D.C. firms have turned him down. And now we find that—after Jay Sekulow said they’d represent Trump—Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing have turned him down, too. It’s humiliating for him.
- “Things are so bad that Trump is now tweeting about his inability to find an attorney, coming up with ridiculous excuses for why no one will represent him. This underscores how humiliated he is by the legal community’s abandonment of him and how serious he knows this issue is.”
As if all of that isn’t bad enough, Abramson goes on to note that: “Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer, has never been much of a lawyer—to be candid, he is very bad at what he does—and mostly exists in Trump’s orbit to threaten people with lawsuits that he himself would be too incompetent by half to ever credibly write, file, or litigate. It’s sad.”
Slate offered their own assessment of Trump’s lack of ability to defend himself against Robert Mueller on Thursday.
They began their analysis noting that: “Trump desperately needs a crack legal team. But his lawyers are no match for Mueller, and no sane attorney would join them now.”
Slate reported that:
[Trump] has no lawyers capable of representing him as he navigates Robert Mueller’s ever more perilous Russia probe.
Last Thursday, John Dowd, one of the president’s personal attorneys, resigned in part because Trump would not take his advice. On Sunday, we were told that Trump’s newest potential attorney, Joe diGenova—who frequently pretends to be Trump’s lawyer on Fox News and has championed the “deep state/witch hunt” narrative Trump so enjoys—will not be able to work for the president due to a conflict of interest.
Alan Dershowitz, says he is retired and has no interest in joining the team. On Monday, Dan K. Webb, another big-name criminal defense lawyer, turned down the president’s overtures, as did one of Webb’s law partners. And Ted Olson didn’t just decline the opportunity to serve on Trump’s legal team: The Republican wonder-lawyer also told Andrea Mitchell that the “turmoil” in the White House was “not good for anything,” then revealed to Mother Jones’ David Corn that nobody in D.C. appeared keen to take a White House gig. On Wednesday, CNN piled on, reporting that major D.C. firms are staying far away; Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall posits that female partners may be behind those firms’ no-Trump policies.
After more discussion regarding Trump’s inability to hire adequate legal representation Slate reported that:
The ongoing and increasingly worrying problem for Trump is that he has lived for so long in the world of rich-man business-mogul law that his conception of lawyers and lawyering is badly skewed. He genuinely believes that attorneys like Michael Cohen—who is now embroiled in a wrestling match with a pugnacious Stormy Daniels and her lawyer—and Marc Kasowitz—who has represented Trump in litigation ranging from his divorce and bankruptcy proceedings to the Trump University lawsuit—can handle any type of legal proceeding.
The only legal system Trump can comprehend—and the only legal system the Cohens and the Kasowitzes are good at navigating—is one that consists entirely of loopholes and workarounds. That system, which runs on threats and intimidation and huge sums of cash, has made a lot of men who look and sound like Donald Trump obscenely wealthy. It is, like it or lump it, the American way.
However, as Slate reported:
Robert Mueller doesn’t practice rich white guy law, and he didn’t cut his teeth in Alito Land. He comes from Serious Criminal Law Land, which adheres to precedents and principles over and above what powerful men can contract around. Mueller, James Comey, Rod Rosenstein, Andrew McCabe, and the myriad lawyers who have said “no” to Donald Trump are, on balance, Republicans and small-c conservatives. But they don’t believe the rule of law exists to enrich their bosses, and they don’t believe you can buy or bully your way out of that fact.
Abramson had similar observations, tweeting that:
Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer, has never been much of a lawyer—to be candid, he is very bad at what he does—and mostly exists in Trump’s orbit to threaten people with lawsuits that he himself would be too incompetent by half to ever credibly write, file, or litigate. It’s sad.
Abramson concluded his analysis tweeting:
The reason Trump not having a real legal team is a major national news story is that the war with North Korea (and possibly Iran) that Bolton wants—has long wanted—would possibly forestall Trump’s legal woes slightly, so he might take military advice in lieu of legal advice. Simple fact: the inability of the most powerful man in the world to secure adequate legal representation as he’s facing the gravest downfall of a political figure in American history is a huge national news story—and a national security issue—and must be covered as such.
Slate concluded their piece, reporting that:
Why wouldn’t serious criminal lawyers rush to take a seat at Trump’s counsel table? One after the other has said that the notion of representing a man who doesn’t take legal advice, insists he is his own master legal tactician, and is likely to fire you at 5 a.m. in a tweet is not a smart career move…. Lawyers, especially inside-the-Beltway lawyers, trade in decades long relationships that put courts and law before any one case. The prospect of blowing up a lifetime of professional goodwill for a three-week stint working for a ticking time bomb of potential liability probably isn’t an attractive prospect.
Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel in the Obama era, told us that lawyers “are understandably wary of Trump as a client: he has unreasonable expectations (Fire Mueller! Tell Sessions to ignore the recusal rules!), he abuses them verbally, interviews their replacements behind their backs, and to top it off, the kind of lawyer he likes should be prepared to advance personal funds and tell tall tales to cover up extramarital trysts.” Bauer added that, on the pro side, “it is probably a memorable professional experience.” Also, “they might even get the chance to testify before a grand jury.”
Perhaps that’s the simplest answer to the mystery of Trump’s missing lawyers. Work for the president, and you might soon wind up in front of a grand jury getting grilled by Bob Mueller. That might make for exceptional reality television. It doesn’t look so good on a résumé.