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Excerpt: "President Trump is moving rapidly toward assembling outside counsel to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and Russian interference in last year's election, and in recent days he and his advisers have privately courted several prominent attorneys to join the effort."

Donald Trump. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Donald Trump. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Trump Lawyers-Up, Big Time

By Robert Costa and Ashley Parker, The Washington Post

23 May 17


resident Trump is moving rapidly toward assembling outside counsel to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and Russian interference in last year’s election, and in recent days he and his advisers have privately courted several prominent attorneys to join the effort.

By Monday, a list of finalists for the legal team had emerged, according to four people briefed on the discussions.

That search process, in which Trump has been personally involved, is expected to yield a formal legal unit in the coming days, made up of lawyers from several firms who would work together to guide Trump as he responds both to the ongoing federal probe and the congressional investigations, the people said.

Although the list of finalists remains somewhat fluid and names could be added, two people close to the search said the president has concluded that he would like a team of attorneys, rather than a single lawyer, to represent him. The team is likely to have lead counselors, those people said.

The four people briefed on the discussions spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the matter publicly.

The attorneys who have spoken to the White House and who are seen as the finalists are Marc E. Kasowitz; Robert J. Giuffra Jr.; Reid H. Weingarten; and Theodore B. Olson, the people said.

Two other attorneys who were originally viewed as contenders but have since drifted away from the mix, at least momentarily, because of legal or professional obstacles are Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. of Williams & Connolly and A.B. Culvahouse Jr., a partner at O’Melveny & Myers who is known for vetting political candidates.

Kasowitz, who has known Trump for decades, is expected to take a leading role. A partner at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in New York, Kasowitz has represented Trump in numerous cases, including on his divorce records, real estate transactions and allegations of fraud at Trump University.

A potential complication for Kasowitz is that former senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Trump’s leading candidate to head the FBI, is currently a senior counsel at his firm. Were Lieberman officially chosen to run the FBI, and Kasowitz chosen to help with Trump’s legal advice, both men — the one leading the organization investigating possible Russian collusion and the one offering Trump legal counsel on that very issue — would hail from the same firm, a likely conflict of interest.

Giuffra, Olson and Weingarten have already spoken with senior administration officials about the team, said a person familiar with the process.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment about how Trump would pay for his outside legal team, the cost of which cannot be covered by the federal government. But campaign finance lawyers said Trump could probably draw funds from his reelection committee to cover legal expenses related to the Russia inquiries, including money donated this year.

“When it comes to legal expenses, the test is whether the expenses would have been incurred irrespective of the campaign,” said Daniel Petalas, a Washington campaign-finance lawyer who served as the Federal Election Commission’s acting general counsel and head of enforcement. “So if the allegation is Trump — either as candidate or officeholder — is facing legal costs as a result of those statuses, then he is entitled to use his campaign funds to defray the legal expenses.”

In a break from precedent, Trump’s campaign committee has continued to aggressively solicit donations since his election. In recent days, the email and text appeals have invoked the controversies swirling around the White House.

“What you’re seeing in the news is a WITCH HUNT,” said a fundraising solicitation seeking $1 donations sent Friday. “But the real victim isn’t me. It’s YOU and the millions of other brave Americans who refused to bow down to Washington by voting for REAL CHANGE last November.”

The president, a former New York real estate developer and reality television star, also has the personal wealth to cover his legal costs.

Some outside experts noted that the president’s decision to consider a team of legal advisers, rather than a single outside counselor, could exacerbate his existing problem of competing power factions within an already chaotic White House.

“The one thing he’s trying to do is to manage some of the disorder that seems to have affected his legal position,” said a lawyer who worked in a previous administration, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the president. “And so to create a Tower of Babel within his legal team is sort of mirroring some of the problems that got him in trouble in the first place. What you don’t need is some complicated team approach in which various people are competing for his ear.”

Giuffra, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, is the coordinating counsel for Volkswagen, which has admitted to cheating on emissions tests in the United States.

Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general, rose to prominence in 2000 when he argued the Supreme Court election case that delivered electoral victory to George W. Bush. He later teamed up with his former Democratic adversary in Bush v. Gore, David Boies, to successfully overturn the 2008 California ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage.

Olson’s wife, Barbara, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when the plane she was in crashed into the Pentagon. Olson, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington office, is now married to Lady Booth Olson, a self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat.

Weingarten, a high-powered attorney at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington known for his folksy style, is a somewhat unlikely choice because he has represented Democratic clients and is close friends with Eric H. Holder Jr., who served as attorney general under President Barack Obama. Holder and Weingarten met during their early years at the Justice Department.

The four finalists did not respond to requests for comment. A White House official said the administration had no comment.

Michael D. Cohen, a longtime attorney for Trump and an executive at the Trump Organization, remains the president’s personal attorney and confidant, and also is involved in the discussions, the people said.

The outside legal team would be separate from the White House Counsel’s Office, which is led by Donald F. McGahn, who served as the Trump campaign’s attorney. In past administrations, presidents such as Bill Clinton have named outside counsel to help them navigate thorny legal problems.

A government lawyer who participated in Clinton’s legal defense said the former president paid millions of dollars in legal fees to Williams & Connolly to compensate the firm for representing him.

Trump’s push to put together an outside legal team comes as Robert S. Mueller III, a respected former federal prosecutor and FBI director, begins his work as a Justice Department-appointed special counsel on the possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Controversy and political drama swirling around the alleged Russia ties have engulfed Trump’s presidency from the start, fueling anger within a White House that feels under siege and unfairly scrutinized. That feeling, in part, drove the president to fire James B. Comey, the FBI director, and fallout from that decision led Justice officials to tap Mueller as special counsel.

Comey, who has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open session, has told friends that he took contemporaneous notes of his exchanges this year with Trump. Democrats have seized on those news reports as evidence of potential obstruction of justice, with some Trump critics suggesting that impeachment could eventually be a possibility. your social media marketing partner


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+12 # mashiguo 2017-05-23 09:56
This is going to be the biggest lawyering-up ever. Believe me, this lawyering-up is going to be soooo beautiful no one will believe it? And guess who is going to pay for it? Mexico!--- uh...whooops, US.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-05-23 14:31
It is likely that Trump and all his campaingn and transition people will hire lawyers to deal with the Mueller investigation. What else can they do?

But I don't think that is where this investigation will go. I don't believe that there will be any criminal charges. I don't think the investigation will even look carefully at the allegations at all.

I've been listening to ThinkTankers on CSPAN talk about the Russian invervention in the US elections and I think I can see the direction they are interested in. First of all, they accept without doubt that Russia intervened in the US election and determined the outcome. This is the same as happened with 9-11. Everyone simply accepted that claim that 19 al Qaeda members hijacked the airplanes.

I think the Mueller investigation will go the same as the 9-11 Commmission. It did nto bother to look in to the question of who planned and carried out 9-11. It accepted the media narrative. Instead, it formulated recommendations on how to change the national security agencies in order be be sure of no more 9-11s. That's what Mueller will do. He will declare that US elections are part of national security and that they are vulnerable to bad actors like Russia. Therefore, the 4lections will have to be supervised or run by the national security agencies like the FBI or CIA. Or maybe, Homeland Security.

The Federal agencies will maintain voter lists. Polling places will be run by Homeland Security agents.
+1 # lfeuille 2017-05-23 23:06
They've admitted they don't have any proof about Russian tampering in the election and they are not likely to find any now. They probably have evidence on Flynn's not registering as a foreign agent, but according to a recent article on consortium news, the law is rarely enforced and there are a lot of other people who don't register. I don't know how they can go after him without going after the others.

However, Trump has definitely left himself open to obstruction of justice charges which do NOT depend on proving the original allegations. And there is the emoluments clause. The grounds are there, but the Republicans won't do it. If the Dems. retake congress in '18 he will probably be impeached.

The Open Secret of Foreign Lobbying
+1 # carytucker 2017-05-24 05:11
FBI inquiries are ipso facto criminal inquiries. If you want to bet that Gen Flynn, among a cast of dozens, will not face criminal charges, any Vegas bookie will gladly give you odds and take your money. It would be terrific to have a Commission inquiry but that won't happen until Congress changes hands.
Until then, the Chaffetz and Burr committees will have difficulty deflecting and stonewalling since the disclosures of certain matters have made their disclaimers not so much weak as irrelevant. Remember Devin Nunes? No one will pay attention to any opinion he offers for the rest of his public life.
There is no media narrative. There is a cascade of stories emerging from some bona fide investigating reporting from the NYT and Post especially, which indicates something smelly in Trumpworld. There's no coherent picture yet, much less a 'narrative.' FOX has a narrative it can live with, making it a public laughingstock (just ask Newt Gingrich).
My guess is that what Mr Trump and his intimates fear is a revelation that his enterprises constitute a money-launderin g operation for the Russian oligarchy, a mob that makes the Mafia resemble a nursery school. In such an enterprise, Mr Trump would play second fiddle at most. I take some pleasure realizing this lesser-tier status doubtless aggrieves him.
+1 # elizabethblock 2017-05-24 09:13
I hope whoever he hires demands to be paid in advance!

From Gilbert & Sullivan, The Gondoliers:
The Duke of Plaza-Toro, just arrived in Venice, complains that there is no band to celebrate his arrival. He is told that the band consists of mercenary persons, who demand to be paid in advance.
"But surely they know His Grace?" says the Duchess.
"Exactly -- they know His Grace."

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