When lawyers refuse a case, especially one that could mean big money and a lot of recognition for their firm, it has to be for a really good reason, I imagine.
A new report out today is saying that four top law firms rejected requests from the Trump administration to represent the president in the ongoing Russia investigations.
Among them, sources said, were some of the most high-profile names in the legal profession, including Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly; Ted Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Paul Clement and Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis; and Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell.
The lawyers and their firms cited a variety of factors in choosing not to take on the president as a client. Some, like Brendan Sullivan, said they had upcoming trials or existing commitments that that would make it impossible for them to devote the necessary time and resources to Trump’s defense.
Others mentioned potential conflicts with clients of their firms, such as financial institutions that have already received subpoenas relating to potential money-laundering issues that are part of the investigation.
But a consistent theme, the sources said, was the concern about whether the president would accept the advice of his lawyers and refrain from public statements and tweets that have consistently undercut his position.
Trump’s reputation for not following the advice of his cabinet and advisers, the Twitter rants, and his penchant for cutting the legs out from under the very people trying to help him is getting around.
This particular report goes along well with an earlier report that he’s having trouble filling positions, not because his picks are being held up, but because nobody wants to go to work for someone who is going to make their job impossible to do because of his unhinged, self-destructive behavior.
“The concerns were, ‘The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen,’” said one lawyer close to the White House who is familiar with some of the discussions between the firms and the administration, as well as deliberations within the firms themselves.
Sounds like somebody has been talking to Trump’s creditors.
Of course, there are also those who, for reasons of politics, believe that being associated with Trump might clash with the ideals of their other clients, in this hyper-partisan atmosphere of the day.
Another lawyer briefed on some of the discussions agreed that the firms were worried about the reputational risk of representing the president. One issue that arose, this lawyer said, was “Do I want to be associated with this president and his policies?” In addition, the lawyer said, there were concerns that if they took on the case, “Who’s in charge?” and “Would he listen?”
Among those who began calling around on the president’s behalf were White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior counselor Kellyanne Conway and White House counsel Don McGahn. In some cases, the discussions led to meetings or phone calls between the lawyers who were approached and the president himself.
Some of the sources who spoke to Yahoo News said the top lawyers and the four firms that rejected the overtures were not exhaustive of the list of firms approached by the White House. Among those who also were reportedly approached were Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson and A.B. Culvahouse Jr. of O’Melveny & Myers.
Trump finally settled on Marc E. Kasowitz, a New York lawyer who has represented Trump in past legal issues, such as the Trump University lawsuits and his divorces.
Kasowitz has no experience in dealing with the political world, but sources say he’s doing his homework. He’s reaching out to the more politically savvy legal minds in Washington for advice in crafting a defense strategy.
Let’s hope Kasowitz’s past experience with Trump has trained him in how to deal with those issues other lawyers were unwilling to touch.