‘Winter is coming’: Allies fear Trump isn’t prepared for gathering legal storm

President Trump’s advisers and allies are increasingly worried that he has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself from a possible Democratic takeover of the House, which would empower the opposition party to shower the administration with subpoenas or even pursue impeachment charges

.. The president and some of his advisers have discussed possibly adding veteran defense attorney Abbe Lowell, who currently represents Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, to Trump’s personal legal team

..Trump announced Wednesday that

  1. Donald McGahn will depart as White House counsel this fall, once the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. Three of McGahn’s deputies —
  2. Greg Katsas,
  3. Uttam Dhillon and
  4. Makan Delrahim — have departed, and a fourth,
  5. Stefan Passantino, will have his last day Friday.

That leaves John Eisenberg, who handles national security, as the lone deputy counsel.

.. McGahn and other aides have invoked the prospect of impeachment to persuade the president not to take actions or behave in ways that they believe would hurt him, officials said.

Still, Trump has not directed his lawyers or his political aides to prepare an action plan, leaving allies to fret that the president does not appreciate the magnitude of what could be in store next year.

.. Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said he and the president have discussed the possibility that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will issue a damning report to Congress.

.. If Democrats control the House, the oversight committees likely would use their subpoena power as a weapon to assail the administration, investigating with a vengeance. The committees could hold hearings about policies

  1. such as the travel ban affecting majority-Muslim countries and
  2. “zero tolerance” family separation, as well as on possible
  3. ethical misconduct throughout the administration or the Trump family’s private businesses.
..  “Assuming Democrats win the House, which we all believe is a very strong likelihood, the White House will be under siege. But it’s like tumbleweeds rolling down the halls over there. Nobody’s prepared for war.”
.. Trump has told confidants that some of his aides have highly competent lawyers such as Lowell, who represents Kushner, and William A. Burck, who represents McGahn as well as former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
“He wonders why he doesn’t have lawyers like that,” said one person who has discussed the matter with Trump.
Another adviser said Trump remarked this year, “I need a lawyer like Abbe.”
Giuliani said that he has not heard of Trump considering adding Lowell to the team but that he would be a great choice because of his thorough and aggressive style.

“This president might like that better,” Giuliani said. “If he thinks someone isn’t being tough enough, he has a tendency to go out to defend himself. And that’s not good.”

.. “I would think that the type of lawyer most able to handle the impeachment scenario would be someone from the appellate and Supreme Court bar — someone of the Ted Olson or Paul Clement or Andy Pincus level, someone who knows how to make the kind of arguments should it come to a vote in the Senate,” Corallo said.

.. Emmet Flood, a White House lawyer and McGahn ally who handles the special counsel’s Russia investigation, has long been considered a top prospect to replace McGahn.

.. Flood, often described as a lawyer’s lawyer, is in many ways the opposite of Trump and Giuliani, yet the president has told advisers he is impressed by Flood’s legal chops and hard-line positions defending the prerogatives of the White House.

.. White House aides, including deputy chief of staff Johnny ­DeStefano and political director Bill Stepien, have tried to ratchet down Trump’s expectations for the elections, saying that projections look grim in the House.

.. Another concern is that the White House, which already has struggled in attracting top-caliber talent to staff positions, could face an exodus if Democrats take over the House, because aides fear their mere proximity to the president could place them in legal limbo and possibly result in hefty lawyers’ fees.

“It stops good people from potentially serving because nobody wants to inherit a $400,000 legal bill,” said another Trump adviser.

.. the West Wing staff is barely equipped to handle basic crisis communications functions, such as distributing robust talking points to key surrogates, and question how the operation could handle an impeachment trial or other potential battles.

Trump sees the administration as having a singular focus — him — and therefore is less concerned with the institution of the presidency and not aware of the vast infrastructure often required to protect it, according to some of his allies.

.. Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel under Clinton, said his office had at least 40 lawyers and as many as 60 during key times.

.. “I appreciate that Rudy Giuliani is doing a lot of the public speaking and perhaps some other things,” Quinn said. But, he added, “it’s a little bit of a mystery to me who is doing the outside legal work.”

Why Michael Cohen Agreed to Plead Guilty—And Implicate the President

Prosecutors had reams of evidence and a long list of counts, which also could have included the lawyer’s wife

For weeks, the president had been distancing himself from Mr. Cohen, including by stopping paying his longtime attorney’s legal fees, making clear amid the pressure that he was on his own.

Under oath on Tuesday, before a packed courtroom, Mr. Cohen created a spectacular moment without parallel in American history when he confessed to two crimes that he said he committed at the behest of the man who would become president.

..  For the president, it opens up a perilous new legal front.

..  Mr. Trump denied he directed Mr. Cohen to buy the women’s silence. Contradicting earlier statements, the president said he became aware of the payments to the women “later on” and said Mr. Cohen was reimbursed from his personal funds, not his 2016 campaign coffers.

.. On April 5, days before the raids, Mr. Trump told reporters on Air Force One he didn’t know about the payment to Ms. Clifford, and referred questions about the matter to Mr. Cohen. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Mr. Trump said. “Michael is my attorney.”

Mr. Cohen, who that night was staying aboard the yacht of Trump donor Franklin Haney, which was docked in Miami, grew irate on the ship soon after Mr. Trump made his remarks distancing himself from the Clifford payment, according to a person familiar with the episode. Mr. Cohen was swearing loudly as others on the boat were sipping their drinks, the person said.

.. Initially, Mr. Cohen seemed unlikely to turn on the president. Although their relationship was at times turbulent, Mr. Trump appreciated Mr. Cohen’s absolute loyalty. On the day of the raids, Mr. Trump called the move a “disgrace” and a “witch hunt.”

Soon after the April raids, Mr. Cohen’s relationship with Mr. Trump began to deteriorate.

The estrangement began over legal bills, said a person who has spoken with Mr. Cohen about the matter. The Trump family covered part of Mr. Cohen’s legal fees after the raids, but then stopped paying.

Mr. Cohen felt exposed. Public comments by Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, put distance between the president and Mr. Cohen and further alienated the attorney, the person said.

Mr. Cohen told associates and friends he felt Mr. Trump didn’t have his back and vented that the president hadn’t personally offered to pay his legal bills in the Manhattan investigation, which he said were “bankrupting” him.
.. By then, prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service had focused on Mr. Cohen’s personal income taxes. In conversations with a potential witness in June and July, investigators asked “very pointed” questions about various tax filings, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

“They knew what they wanted, they knew what they had, and they went after it,” the person said.

In late June, Mr. Cohen openly broke with Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Cohen’s father urged him not to protect the president, saying he didn’t survive the Holocaust to have his name sullied by Mr. Trump
.. On June 20, Mr. Cohen stepped down from his position as the Republican National Committee’s deputy finance chairman and tweeted his first public criticism of his former boss: “As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy [are] heart wrenching.” The tweet no longer appears on Mr. Cohen’s Twitter account.
.. In July, a recording became public that Mr. Cohen surreptitiously made of a conversation he had with Mr. Trump in September 2016 about buying the rights to Ms. McDougal’s story. The president has denied the affair.The president’s legal team had waived attorney-client privilege on the recording, which had been seized in the April 9 raids.

.. Given the Justice Department’s policy of not indicting sitting presidents, a guilty plea from Mr. Cohen and his public implication of Mr. Trump were among the strongest outcomes prosecutors could have hoped for

.. For prosecutors, the guilty plea meant they could avoid a contentious trial and free up resources to pursue other investigations.
.. one of Mr. Cohen’s lawyers, Lanny Davis, appeared on cable news shows to say Mr. Cohen wouldn’t accept a pardon from Mr. Trump and “is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows.”

Russia Probe Takes Financial Toll on Trump Aides

White House and campaign officials have liquidated college savings accounts, set up defense funds

Washington is one of the nation’s costliest legal jurisdictions, with many lawyers charging upward of $1,000 an hour, and several Trump associates have been contacted in connection with multiple ongoing investigations, from Congress to the special counsel’s office.

.. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo, who testified in July before a closed-door hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview he has spent around $30,000 on legal bills. He said he liquidated a college fund he had set up for his daughters, including one who is 15 years old.

“My retirement account is next,” Mr. Caputo said, estimating that paying a Washington attorney to represent a witness at one congressional hearing costs around $40,000. He said his costs were lower because he hired a lawyer in upstate New York where he lives.

One Theory Over Meaning of Trump’s ‘Many Sides’ Remark

Mr. Trump seems to have concluded what many other conservatives did about the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va.: As tragic as it was, it was incited by a small, unrepresentative group of bigots purporting to speak for the right whose antics would be exhaustively covered in the news.

.. “They think there were 300 or so racists who showed up to a rally, and who got exactly what they wanted: Violence, and violence in a way that inspires the nation’s elite to double down on iconoclasm in a way they hope grows their movement,” said Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist, an online magazine.

.. Mr. Trump and conservatives have pointed to several recent episodes as evidence of the left gone mad.

  • They include the comedian Kathy Griffin’s posing for a picture with a fake severed Trump head, and
  • a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” that featured a Trump-like actor as the emperor who is fatally stabbed onstage.
  • Some seized on the shooting that seriously injured Representative Steve Scalise
  •  One recent web video from the National Rifle Association accused liberals of attempting to “bully and terrorize the law abiding” as it implored Americans to “fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”

..  Of at least 372 murders that were committed by domestic extremists between 2007 and 2016, according to a study by the Anti-Defamation League,

  • 74 percent were committed by right-wing extremists.
  • Muslim extremists were responsible for 24 percent of those killings,
  • and the small remainder were committed by left-wing extremists

.. the emphasis for many conservatives is not on statistics that indicate who is the more violent offender. Rather, he said, the point is about the general tenor of political debate, which people like him believe is weighted against them.

.. “You don’t have a ton of reporters banging on the doors of Democrats asking them to denounce Antifa,” he said, referring to the militant Marxist-inspired group that rioted at Mr. Trump’s inauguration and often shows up looking for confrontation at sites where conservative writers like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos are scheduled to speak.

.. Mr. Trump is no mere bit player in the discussion of political violence. At various times, he has offered to pay the legal bills of supporters who get in brawls at his events and stated, without offering any proof, that paid agitators were responsible for protests against him.

.. Alex Jones .. said people who protested the white supremacists over the weekend were probably actors

.. Mr. Jones played down the significance of the violence, saying it was likely staged by “Democratic Party activists” who are looking to “overdemonize” whites and “put chips on the shoulders of the so-called minorities.”

.. Demographically, blacks are 12 times more likely to attack whites for no reason,” Mr. Jones went on, providing no evidence for his claim. “It’s a fact.”

.. He then recounted his own experience watching a Nazi rally he said was attended by Jews posing as Nazis, evident by their “curly hair, and you know, dark eyes.”

.. Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theory peddler, was gleeful as he posted on Twitter about the violence on Saturday. “Civil War is here!” he wrote.

.. There is also a new political term to describe the circular firing squad in which right and left have blamed the other for the country’s degenerating political debate — “whataboutism.”

.. Guy Benson, a conservative writer and an author of the book “End of Discussion,” which argues that the left has tried to shut down political debate by declaring certain topics off the table, said he sees a “whataboutism overreach” among some conservatives.

.. “Round and round we go with this one-upsmanship of who’s worse,” Mr. Benson added, “and that’s a really terrible way to argue.”

With Mueller as the special prosecutor, the White House has every reason to panic

This move became inevitable once Rosenstein was embroiled in the Comey firing.

.. Frankly, the White House has every reason to panic. No one will intimidate or throw Mueller off course.

.. every member of the staff, the vice president and the president will brace themselves for interrogation, production of potentially damaging documents and, incidentally, big legal bills.

.. He now goes overseas — something the homebody Trump reportedly dreaded — as a wounded president with an uncertain future. Nothing could be more disconcerting to allies than dealing with an impulsive, ignorant president — one whose future is far from certain.