‘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.”

The ‘Deplorables’ Called Into Battle Again

Steve Bannon doesn’t do subtle. So it’s no surprise that there’s nothing subtle about the new movie President Trump’s onetime political guru has produced to energize the Trump base for this year’s midterm elections.

It’s entitled “Trump at War,” and it’s an hour and 15 minutes of pure Trumpian adrenaline. It opens with a series of shots of Trump supporters being attacked by angry opponents, shifts to outtakes of Trump supporters proudly accepting the “deplorables” label bestowed by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, runs through a long series of angry ripostes at Trump detractors and praise of administration policy moves, and closes with dire warnings of the need to vote for Republicans in 2018 to head off efforts by liberals to impeach the president.

Mr. Bannon previewed the film for some Republican supporters in Dallas recently, but the big premiere is scheduled for Sept. 9—chosen because it is the second anniversary of the speech in which Mrs. Clinton used the “basket of deplorables” phrase. The location? The very club in Manhattan where Mrs. Clinton made the speech, which has been rented for the occasion.

.. Republicans face a Democratic party whose activists appear exceptionally motivated—to campaign, donate money and turn out in November.

Republicans need something to match that fervor. That something is the Trump base—and the best motivating tools are anger and fear.

.. In this case, that means specifically the fear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, New York prosecutors and a Democratic Congress will conspire to kick Mr. Trump out of office. That’s why Republicans are talking about the specter of impeachment, not Democrats. Democrats know impeachment talk is a surefire way to motivate the other side.

.. Right now, independent voters are hard to read. Their sentiments have been shifting around a lot in Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling in recent months. As a general rule, they have a low regard for Mr. Trump personally and appear weary of the atmosphere of constant crisis around him. But the polling also indicates they increasingly like how Republicans are handling the economy, appreciate the GOP tax cut and think the party is changing the way things work in Washington.

That leaves moderate Republicans, of whom Mr. Bannon says simply: “We need RINOs.”

.. More conventional Republicans may be disdainful of Mr. Trump personally, but they also think the tax cuts, deregulatory policies and judicial nominations they like are imperiled if he goes down.

.. For the Trump base, impeachment talk is a source of outrage. Soft Republicans dislike it for less emotional, more practical reasons.

Trump Says He Allowed White House Counsel to ‘Fully Cooperate’ With Russia Probe

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, said in an interview that Mr. Trump had urged Mr. McGahn to cooperate “because the president is confident that he’ll just tell the truth, and the truth reveals the situation in which the president didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Did he provide anything harmful? The answer is no he didn’t,” Mr. Giuliani said. Mr. Giuliani said if he himself were to interview with Mr. Mueller, “we’d be talking for three to four days. But there would be nothing in it that was harmful to the president.”

..  Last summer, while the investigation was under way, the president sought to fire Mr. Mueller, but backed off when Mr. McGahn said he would resign rather than carry out the order, a person familiar with the matter said.

.. Mr. McGahn was also on the receiving end of a warning in April to the president from Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to fire his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Mueller investigation. Mr. Sessions told Mr. McGahn that he would consider resigning if Mr. Trump fired his deputy, according to a person familiar with the message.

.. Mr. McGahn was also involved in conversations with the president as Mr. Trump moved to fire Mr. Comey in May 2017. Days before the firing, Mr. Trump dressed down Mr. McGahn and Steve Bannon, his chief strategist at the time, over Mr. Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation two months earlier.

.. He is widely expected to leave the White House if and when Brett Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, is confirmed.

.. Mr. McGahn urged other members of the White House Counsel’s Office to use his attorney, according to a person familiar with the matter, a move that left the impression he wanted to ensure his office colleagues gave consistent accounts.

 

 

You can tell who Trump is through the company he keeps

what the trial reveals is something very damning, in the ethical if not legal sense: namely, what kind of people Trump surrounds himself with.

There was no secret about Manafort’s record as an influence-peddler on behalf of corrupt dictators and oligarchs when he went to work for Trump. On April 13, 2016, Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake wrote a prescient article headlined: “Trump Just Hired His Next Scandal.” Trump couldn’t have cared less. His whole career, he has surrounded himself with sleazy characters such as the Russian-born mob associate Felix Sater, who served prison time for assault and later pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, as well as lawyer-cum-fixer Michael Cohen, who is reportedly under investigation for a variety of possible crimes, including tax fraud.

.. These are the kind of people Trump feels comfortable around, because this is the kind of person Trump is. He is, after all, the guy who paid $25 million to settle fraud charges against him from students of Trump University. The guy who arranged for payoffs to a Playboy playmate and a porn star with whom he had affairs. The guy who lies an average of 7.6 times a day.

.. And because everyone knows what kind of person Trump is, he attracts kindred souls. Manafort and Gates are only Exhibits A and B. There is also Exhibit C: Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, is facing federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and false statements as part of an alleged insider-trading scheme. Exhibit D is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been accused by Forbes magazine, hardly an anti-Trump rag, of bilking business associates out of $120 million.

.. In fairness, not all of Trump’s associates are grifters. Some are simply wealthy dilettantes like Trump himself

.. Among the affluent and unqualified appointees Trump has set loose on the world are his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his former lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, who are somehow supposed to solve an Israeli-Palestinian dispute that has frustrated seasoned diplomats for decades. No surprise: Their vaunted peace plan remains MIA.

.. ProPublica has a mind-boggling scoop about another group of dilettantes — a Palm Beach doctor, an entertainment mogul, and a lawyer — whom Trump tasked as an informal board of directors to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs. None has any experience in the U.S. military or government; their chief qualification was that they are all members of Trump’s golf club, Mar-a-Lago. 

.. Beyond the swindlers and dilettantes, there is a third group of people who have no business working for Trump or any other president: the fanatics. The most prominent of the extremists was Stephen K. Bannon, the notorious “alt-right” leader who was chief executive of Trump’s campaign and a senior White House aide. He may be gone, but others remain. They include Peter Navarro, who may well be the only economist in the world who thinks trade wars are a good thing; Stephen Miller, the nativist who was behind plans to lock immigrant children in cages and bar Muslims from entering the United States, and who is now plotting to reduce legal immigration; and Fred Fleitz, the Islamophobic chief of staff of the National Security Council. They feel at home in the White House because, aside from being a grifter and a dilettante, Trump is also an extremist with a long history of racist, sexist, nativist, protectionist and isolationist utterances