He is, for lack of a better comparison, the Donald Trump of lawyering.
.. A walk through Mr. Kasowitz’s office at Kasowitz Benson Torres in Midtown shows magazine covers and framed pictures of him. He’s quick to tell you about his latest accomplishment and never shies from publicity. The first paragraph of the online biography on his firm’s website, before mentioning any of his work, cites the dozens of media outlets that have written about him, and how they have described him as the “toughest lawyer on Wall Street,” an “uberlitigator” and “the toughest of the tough guys.”
.. In case you didn’t get the message, he likes a good fight, the nastier the better.
.. Mr. Kasowitz was largely responsible for helping Liggett settle the huge class action suits it faced over the health impact of tobacco
.. Mr. Kasowitz’s firm was on the other side of Mr. Icahn in a dispute over casinos. The client? Mr. Trump, along with his daughter Ivanka.
.. Mr. Kasowitz recently added Sberbank, a Russian state-controlled bank, as a client in a case that accused it of conspiring to take over a Russian granite company — and asserting that the conspiracy involved lieutenants of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The complaint called it a “textbook case of Russian corporate raiding.”
The big question in Washington is whether Mr. Kasowitz, who is not a criminal lawyer or a political hand, is the right person to be at Mr. Trump’s side. Some of Mr. Trump’s friends and advisers have privately raised questions about his hiring.
.. he does know about Mr. Trump — and he does know about the news media and the 24-hour news cycle.
.. He’s currently representing Bill O’Reilly
.. Mr. Kasowitz sent a letter to the paper threatening to sue over the publication of accusations from two women that Mr. Trump sexually harassed them.
.. Mr. Kasowitz’s law partner, David M. Friedman, was Mr. Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel.
.. And another of Mr. Kasowitz’s partners — one of his newest — is Joseph I. Lieberman
.. “I don’t read much. Mostly I read contracts, but usually my lawyers do most of the work.”
Mr. Trump’s West Wing aides, like President Bill Clinton’s staff two decades before, say they sometimes cringe at the input from people they can’t control, with consequences they can’t predict. Knowing these advisers — who are mostly white, male and older — is a key to figuring out the words coming from Mr. Trump’s mouth and his Twitter feed.
.. Sean Hannity
Presidents always deploy surrogates to appear on television to spout their talking points, but Mr. Trump has expanded on that by developing relationships with sympathetic media figures like Mr. Hannity who also serve as advisers. Mr. Hannity, the Fox News host, defends Mr. Trump’s most controversial behavior in public, but privately, according to people close to Mr. Trump, he urges the president not to get distracted, and advises him to focus on keeping pledges like repealing the Affordable Care Act.
.. Chris Ruddy
The chief executive of Newsmax Media is a longtime Mar-a-Lago member and was a Trump cheerleader among conservative media well before the website Breitbart joined the parade. He employs writers and editors who tracked Mr. Trump’s career when they were at The New York Post.
.. Sheri A. Dillon
Ms. Dillon seemed out of place when she spoke at a too-large lectern in the lobby of Trump Tower on Jan. 11, describing the steps Mr. Trump planned to take to separate himself from his business. But Ms. Dillon, an ethics lawyer who worked out a highly criticized plan for Mr. Trump to retain ownership of his company but step back from running it, has repeatedly counseled the president about the business and made at least one White House visit.
.. Corey Lewandowski
Despite his “you’re fired” slogan, the president dislikes dismissing people. Mr. Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s hot-tempered first campaign manager, was fired in June but never really went away. A New England-bred operative whose working-class roots and clenched-teeth loyalty earned him Mr. Trump’s trust, he continued to be in frequent phone contact with Mr. Trump until the election and beyond. Friends of Mr. Lewandowski say that he can see the windows of the White House residence from his lobbying office on Pennsylvania Avenue, and that the view is even better during his visits to the West Wing
.. Thomas Barrack Jr.
Mr. Trump divides the people around him into broad categories: family, paid staff and wealthy men like Mr. Barrack whom he considers peers.
.. Under Mr. Barrack’s leadership, Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $106.7 million, much of it from big corporations, banks and Republican megadonors like the Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Barrack also helped usher Paul Manafort, the international political operative now under scrutiny for his ties to Russia, into the Trump fold last year.
.. Phil Ruffin
Mr. Trump has 20-odd business partners, but none is closer to him than Mr. Ruffin, 82, a Texas billionaire who has lent his ear and private jet. The president was best man at the 2008 wedding of Mr. Ruffin to his third wife, a 26-year-old model and former Miss Ukraine. Mr. Ruffin has a knack for showing up when Mr. Trump needs him most and remains a die-hard defender.
.. Carl Icahn
Rounding out Mr. Trump’s roster of wealthy octogenarians is this 81-year-old corporate raider and real estate mogul, who occupies perhaps the most respected perch in the president’s circle of businessmen buddies. The affection is longstanding: The Queens-bred Mr. Icahn has known Mr. Trump and his family for decades. It’s also numerical: Mr. Icahn is worth an estimated $16 billion, a major plus in the eyes of a president who keeps score. Mr. Icahn serves as a free-roving economic counselor and the head of Mr. Trump’s effort to reduce government regulations on business.
Mrs. Trump is uninterested in the limelight, but she has remained a powerful adviser by telephone from New York. Among her roles: giving Mr. Trump feedback on media coverage, counseling him on staff choices and urging him, repeatedly, to tone down his Twitter feed. Lately, he has listened closely, and has a more disciplined Twitter finger.
Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and palace gatekeeper, has shown a capacity to hobble his rivals, but few have been finished off. The most durable has been Mr. Christie, whose transition planning, several West Wing aides now concede, should not have been discarded.
Steven Mnuchin might have a shot at Treasury secretary, but his Wall Street pedigree makes him the type Donald Trump fans love to hate.
One theory bouncing between Manhattan and Beverly Hills holds that an investor with so much Wall Street blood in his veins spotted the trade of a lifetime. In exchange for a few months of unpaid work, Mnuchin gets a shot at joining President Trump’s cabinet. Goldman partners have wealth, and movie producers befriend stars, but the secretary of the Treasury gets his signature stamped on cash.
.. he sounds less like a political obsessive than an investor closing a deal he can’t quite discuss. “This was a unique moment in time where there’s a unique role for me,” he says. “It’s a unique moment in time,” he says again. “A unique opportunity to help.” But he will allow that the idea of a top Washington job appeals to him. “Yeah, it does,” he says. And for everyone on both coasts who still can’t believe Mnuchin has tied himself to Trump, he has an answer: “Nobody’s going to be like, ‘Well, why did he do this?’ if I end up in the administration.”
.. Mnuchin helped work out a deal with the party for Trump to essentially outsource much of the work of raising money, and in return the RNC would get to pocket millions collected in his name. It was a classic Trump move. After his companies went bankrupt following debt-fueled bonanzas in the 1980s, Trump became a maestro of sticking his brand on someone else’s products—condos, cuff links, colognes. Mnuchin arranged for him to do the same thing on a presidential scale.
.. Mnuchin’s counterpart at the RNC is Lew Eisenberg, his father’s old partner at Goldman Sachs. “I knew him when he was 10,” Eisenberg says
.. Mnuchin was born into a level of privilege that makes Trump’s deluxe childhood look ordinary. His grandfather, an attorney, co-founded a yacht club in the Hamptons, and his father, Robert, was a top Goldman Sachs trader who later became an art dealer. Mnuchin followed his father to Yale, where he lived in the old Taft Hotel with Eddie Lampert, now a billionaire investor, and Sam Chalabi, whose uncle, Ahmad, later ran the Iraqi National Congress.
.. In 2004, Mnuchin founded his own hedge fund, Dune Capital Management, named for a spot near his house in the Hamptons, and got hundreds of millions of dollars from Soros.
.. Mnuchin gathered some billionaire allies, including Soros and hedge fund manager John Paulson, and assembled a $1.6 billion bid to buy IndyMac. Mnuchin got an agreement that guaranteed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would absorb almost all the loan losses after a certain threshold.
.. “He’s a guy that can recognize an opportunity and adapt to it,” he says. “He’s able to switch into different things.”
.. betting markets give Trump as much as a 28 percent chance of winning. Those are long odds in politics but not too shabby on Wall Street, and if his man makes it, Mnuchin could nab something priceless. All it costs him is a few months and some behind-the-back talk from friends who think he’s selling out to a demagogue.
.. “If you want to support Hillary and you haven’t been doing it for 15 to 25 years, probably dating back to Bill, you may be too late. In fact, at this point you are too late,” Sobel says. “Trump as a candidate didn’t exist two years ago. He doesn’t have the legacy organization that you had to endure and claw your way through. There’s no political machine.”
.. the foul-mouthed provocateur Steve Bannon ..
.. e has only pleasantries to share about Bannon, also a Goldman Sachs alumnus. Two days later, campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is gone.
.. He won’t go into details about how he met Trump. Nor what he thinks about the candidate insulting the parents of an American soldier killed in action. Mnuchin won’t say whether Goldman’s Hank Paulson was a good Treasury secretary.
.. Mnuchin surveyed the U-shaped table setup and decided Trump’s seat was too close to a wall. He convinced the country club staff that there was enough time to move the furniture about 2 feet.
.. At an August Trump fundraiser in the Hamptons, he encountered Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor whom Trump floated as a Treasury pick last year. “I hear the rumor is you will be secretary of the Treasury,” Icahn told Mnuchin. “And I will support you 100 percent on that! Because there’s no f—ing way I would ever do that.”