George Conway: Why Trump had to hire this legal odd couple

This is what happens when you don’t pay your legal bills.

President Trump, whose businesses and now campaign have left a long trail of unpaid bills behind them, has never discriminated when it comes to stiffing people who work for him. That includes lawyers — which is part of the reason he found the need to make some curious last-minute tweaks to his team, announcing the addition of the legal odd couple of Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth W. Starr.

​The president has consistently encountered difficulty in hiring good lawyers to defend him. In 2017, after Robert S. Mueller III became special counsel, Trump couldn’t find a high-end law firm that would take him as a client. His reputation for nonpayment preceded him: One major Manhattan firm I know had once been forced to eat bills for millions in bond work it once did for Trump. No doubt other members of the legal community knew of other examples.

Of course, being cheap wasn’t the only reason Trump struck out among the nation’s legal elite. There was the fact that he would be an erratic client who’d never take reasonable direction — direction as in shut up and stop tweeting. Firms also understood that taking on Trump would kill their recruiting efforts: Top law students of varying political stripes who might be willing, even eager, to join a firm that provides pro bono representation to murderers on death row, want nothing to do with Trump.

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee during Bill Clinton's impeachment inquiry in November 1998. (Luke Frazza/AFP via Getty Images)
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee during Bill Clinton’s impeachment inquiry in November 1998. (Luke Frazza/AFP via Getty Images)

That left Trump to be personally defended in the Mueller investigation by a random patchwork of counsel, including Jay Sekulow, a lawyer specializing in religious liberty cases, and John Dowd, a Washington solo practitioner who, according to Bob Woodward, viewed Trump as a “f—ing liar.” (Dowd denies that.) Last but not least, Trump had the assistance of Rudolph W. Giuliani — who has done more than anyone other than Trump himself to get Trump impeached.

Contrast that unimpressive crew with the team assembled by President Bill Clinton, who had not one, but two, top-notch law firms defending him: global powerhouse Skadden Arps, with heavy-hitter Bob Bennett, to handle the Paula Jones case; and the elite Washington defense firm, Williams & Connolly, led by the brilliant David Kendall, to handle the Whitewater investigation, its Monica Lewinsky spinoff and impeachment.

Precisely because he never had a defense team truly suited for the task at hand, Trump found the need now to add to the mix. But the mix still makes no sense. On the team, as of Friday, are the legal odd couple of Harvard Law School professor emeritus Dershowitz and former federal appeals court judge Starr.

It’s hard to see how either could help.

Dershowitz gets specific about his ‘limited role’ in Trump impeachment
Havard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz spoke Jan. 19 about his role on the president’s legal team after Trump picked him, personally. (Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Dershowitz may be a genius in some ways, but he’s not necessarily the advocate you want on your side. Judges have told me they find him condescending in manner and tone — not the approach you want before a court consisting of 100 U.S. senators. And he’s wont to make off-the-wall arguments. As his former Harvard colleague Professor Laurence Tribe has put it, Dershowitz “revels in taking positions that ultimately are not just controversial but pretty close to indefensible.” Dershowitz’s recent assertion that the Supreme Court could order the Senate not to conduct an impeachment trial illustrates the point. Not only is that claim indefensible — it’s also ridiculous.

And then there’s Starr. I know and like Starr, but I can’t comprehend what he’s doing here. He’s best known as the independent counsel whose investigation led to the impeachment of Clinton. That’s hardly helpful for Trump, because Clinton was a piker compared with Trump.

Clinton’s core offense was to obstruct a private civil action about pre-presidential conduct and cover up sexual misconduct — none of which had involved abuse of presidential power. From a constitutional standpoint, that’s a trifle compared with extorting a foreign nation by cutting off federal military funds in an effort to interfere with an upcoming U.S. presidential election.

How one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats approaches impeachment
Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is facing a tough reelection. He says that has nothing to do with how he is preparing for the Senate’s impeachment trial. (Rhonda Colvin, Ashleigh Joplin/The Washington Post)

As if that were not enough, in the Clinton case, Starr argued that Clinton had committed an impeachable offense by blocking witness testimony and documents. Oops.

Any litigator will tell you that adding to your legal team on the eve of trial most likely will not produce better lawyering but, rather, chaos. In that sense, at least, Trump will be getting the representation he deserves.

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Trump Lawyer Takes Communications Role Parrying Congressional Oversight

White House is assigning one of its lawyers to a new communications role to handle the stepped-up oversight coming from Democratic-led congressional committees, among other issues, a White House official said Thursday.

Steven Groves, now an assistant special counsel in the White House, will become a deputy press secretary under a broader realignment of duties in President Trump’s press and communications operations, the official said.

.. Mr. Groves had been working under Emmet Flood, the White House special counsel dealing with the Russia investigation.

Before coming to the White House, he worked at the Heritage Foundation and the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

“He speaks law, which will help,” the White House official said.

Rudy Giuliani is the fool for our time

Rudy Giuliani started Tuesday in the manner Americans have come to expect of the president’s lawyer: He attacked former FBI director James Comey by tweeting a cartoon image of Bashful from Disney’s “Snow White.”

Giuliani deleted the tweet, and anyway, it’s not clear why he chose Bashful.

.. He had told CNN on Sunday that “no one signed” a letter of intent for Donald Trump to build a Moscow project. On Tuesday, CNN obtained the letter — signed by Trump.

Giuliani, asked by the New York Daily News to explain himself, said, “I don’t think I said nobody signed it.” Completing the reversal, he said “of course” Trump signed it: “How could you send it but nobody signed it?”

.. The “fool” has been a dramatic fixture at least since Shakespeare scribbled, and Giuliani is the fool for our time. Occasionally he speaks accidental truths, but mostly he plays the clown.

.. “Twitter allowed someone to invade my text with a disgusting anti-President message,” an alarmed Giuliani tweeted a few weeks ago, calling Twitter “card-carrying anti-Trumpers.” In fact, Giuliani had accidentally sabotaged his own tweet with a punctuation error — “G-20.In” — that automatically created a hyperlink to an Indian Web address. A clever observer quickly bought the domain and created a page that said “Donald Trump is a traitor.” Giuliani’s errant accusation was all the funnier because he’s also Trump’s “cybersecurity adviser.”

.. The former New York mayor, 74, has long been a loose cannon, asserting that there had not been any “successful Islamic terrorist attacks” during the George W. Bush administration, saying Trump’s travel ban was a legal way to do a “Muslim ban,” and predicting a “pretty big surprise” right before Comey reopened the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Alternately ill-informed and indiscreet, he’s just the guy you’d want as your lawyer.

.. Giuliani began as Trump’s lawyer in the spring by comparing FBI agents to “stormtroopers” and later claiming a law-enforcement informant was a “spy.”

.. He said he would charge special counsel Robert Mueller’s office “with a lance” to defend Ivanka Trump, but Jared Kushner is “disposable.”

.. He said Trump couldn’t be indicted as president even if he “shot” Comey.

.. He undermined months of Trump’s “no collusion” claims by proclaiming instead that “collusion is not a crime.”

He defended Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press” by saying “truth isn’t truth.

He admitted publicly that the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was held “for the purpose of getting information about Clinton,” upending the official line that it was about adoption.

He suggested guilt when he told the Daily Beast “this was not a big crime” because “nobody got killed, nobody got robbed.”

And, days ago, he raised the possibility that associate Roger Stone gave Trump advance notice that WikiLeaks would release emails about Clinton stolen by Russiasaying “if” Stone had, “it’s not a crime.”

Clearly, some Giuliani dopiness is an effort to divulge damaging information gently. But he often makes matters worse.

.. Giuliani announced that Trump reimbursed Cohen for hush money to a porn actress. But he seemed baffled when told Cohen had claimed it was his own money: “He did?” Retreating, Giuliani said Trump wasn’t told about the payments, “but even if he was told, he wouldn’t have remembered it.” Further backpedaling, Giuliani said, “I’m not an expert on the facts” and issued a written statement “to clarify the views I expressed over the past few days.”

A similar mop-up came after Giuliani volunteered on TV that there had been a second meeting between Trump associates and Russians. Hours later, he said the just-referenced meeting “never happened.”

On Sunday, Giuliani was back to truth-isn’t-truth, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “unless you’re God . . . you will never know what the truth is” from Cohen. And Giuliani told Fox News’s Chris Wallace that Mueller would interview Trump “over my dead body — but you know, I could be dead.”

Perish the thought! We need Giuliani’s entertainment. But when he dies, there should be a memorable scene when he goes before the One Who Knows Truth.

“I didn’t lie,” Giuliani will say, “but even if I did, it wasn’t a crime to be Dopey.”

 

Comments:

I always felt Rudy used 9/11 more than actually helping.
.. Need for money and attention, and significant cognitive decline due to age have brought about this sorry spectacle.
In the Trump WH age-related cognitive decline has a pretty good chance of passing unnoticed.
.. Trump is the anti-King Midas.

.. I’m sorry, but this column is mistaken.  Giuliani is playing out his assigned role precisely as intended.  Self-contradictions, deliberate falsehoods, apparent “misstatements,” bizarre tweets — all external hallmarks of Rudy’s boss, and Rudy’s a talented understudy.  The purpose behind all this playacting is to distract and confuse, and it works.  Trump continues to operate on the principle that the longer he can keep people shocked, off-balance, outraged, distracted, and confused, the longer he can rake in ill-gotten gains from his real aim: fleecing the American public.  Giuliani has been recruited to assist in the Dept. of Misdirection.

The only fool thing Giuliani has done is to place the slightest reliance on Trump’s promise of whatever payback The Gilded Don has dangled in exchange for Rudy’s excellent diversionary stunts.   A substantial group of construction subcontractors have learned, to their lasting pain and sorrow, what Trump’s promises are worth.

.. I agree.  Fortunately, Giuliani has no power or authority so people just ignore his inane pronouncements.  In the words of Jimmy Breslin, “Rudy Guiliani is a small man in search of a balcony.”
.. I think you’re giving them both more credit than they deserve. IMHO Trump is just a bully and Giuliani really is just a fool. But hey, there’s every chance you’re right, I’m just not sure they are smart enough to be so devious. 
.. Trump, Giuliani, and Gingrich: The Three Wives Men
.. Oh god another moron who thinks he is a stable genius.  Surely Rudy’s third divorce is having an affect on him.  And getting kicked out of his law firm for disgracing them with his idiocy, and having another exwife asking for more money, just has Rudy rattled. Please somebody remove this blight on the Constitution from our eyes and ears.
.. I find it amazing that anyone would even have this man appear in front of any camera.  If one lived in NYC when he was Mayor (as I did) you would know the truth about him.
He was a Mayor whose interest was to clean up the parks by moving all the homeless out of them with nowhere to go. Put them in the streets with no plan.
Did nothing for NYC education, nothing for housing, nothing for women’s or Gay rights and on and on.
The final straw was this America’s Mayor standing in front of Grace Mansion and telling the world he was divorcing his then wife (Donna Hanover) to marry his mistress.  Never telling her in person.
What kind of man is this?  He is exactly the clown you see today licking the boots of a President who like Rudy is a man without scruples and who lies on TV then is brought back to reality with proof that he spouts these lies and thinks he will get away with them.  Todays world has everything recorded.  Mr Giuliani please go back to your senior home and take your meds.
.. Could it be that Rudy is really a secret double agent who actually works for Mueller? Every time he opens his mouth, Rudy digs the hole deeper for Trump.
.. Very nicely done. The most puzzling thing about Giuliani is that he doesn’t have the self-awareness to realize that he looks foolish and he apparently doesn’t have anyone close to him who he trusts to tell him that he looks foolish either. He has chosen a very difficult role: mouthpiece for an habitually lying, narcissistic degenerate. Very few people could take that role and emerge with any dignity. In fact, most people with dignity would not take that role. Guliani will not be remembered as the Mayor of New York City during 9/11 nor as the U.S. Attorney who once tried to clean up Wall Street. He will be remembered as Trump’s tool, and as this piece says, as a fool.

.. Mr. Rudolph Guiliani is second only to the TRumpster himself in making the TRumpster look guilty as sin.

Trump Lawyers Have Submitted Written Answers to Special Counsel’s Questions

I write the answers. My lawyers don’t write answers,” Trump told reporters last week. “I was asked a series of questions. I answered them very easily.

The questions reportedly dealt in part with how much the president knew about his advisers’ contacts with Russians.

“I’m sure they’re tricked up,” Trump said Friday about Mueller’s questions. “Because, you know, they like to catch people. So you have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions.”

“It has been our position from the outset that much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry. This remains our position today. The President has nonetheless provided unprecedented cooperation. The Special Counsel has been provided with more than 30 witnesses, 1.4 million pages of material, and now the President’s written responses to questions. It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion,” Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said in a statement.

Ty Cobb: Mueller investigation is not a ‘witch hunt’

Ex-White House lawyer Ty Cobb broke with his former boss Monday, saying he doesn’t believe special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is a “witch hunt.”

“I don’t think it’s a witch hunt,” Cobb told CNN’s Gloria Borger during CNN’s “Citizen Conference.”

Cobb also characterized Mueller as “an American hero in my view” and said that he has respected Mueller for decades.

‘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.”