At least four major law firms backed away from talks with the White House to help defend President Trump in the escalating federal Russia probe, citing worries that the headstrong commander-in-chief would not listen to their counsel, Yahoo News reported Tuesday.
Among the lawyers and firms that weren’t interested in representing Trump were 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, Yahoo reported.
Olson worked as the solicitor general under former President George W. Bush and served as the judicial committee chair for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Clement followed Olsen as solicitor general under Bush in 2004 Sullivan represented Oliver North during the 1987 congressional hearings regarding the Iran-Contra scandal.
“The concerns were, ‘The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen,’” one of the lawyers familiar with the talks told the outlet.
James Comey to testify before Senate next week about Russia
The number of firms that declined invitations even just to talk about taking on the work signals the overwhelming task of defending the President amid a rapidly expanding probe being run by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, as well as concerns some of the nation’s top lawyers appeared to have about the commander-in-chief’s propensity for tweeting.
Trump’s search for an outside attorney ended last month after he announced he was bringing in Marc Kasowitz, one of his longtime personal lawyers, to lead his outside counsel team during the investigation.
Kasowitz has represented Trump several times in the past, including for his divorce proceedings, against fraud allegations for Trump University and in multiple real estate transactions. The New York-based lawyer, however, is notorious for his aggressive and loud style and has raised concerns among Republicans that he could do more harm than help in such a high-profile investigation.
Trump had been advised to seek outside counsel after the Justice Department brought in former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor last month to resume investigating whether members of Trump’s campaign and transition team coordinated with Russian efforts to meddle in the election.
Putin speculates Americans faked election hacking evidence
Former FBI Director James Comey had been leading that investigation until he was fired in May by Trump, who reportedly told Russian diplomats inside the Oval Office that he cut the agency chief explicitly to relieve himself of the “great pressure” he was facing from the probe.
Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday, and is expected to divulge further details about the situation.
But the investigation has already touched various members of the Trump administration, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, top aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
All three had discussions with Russian diplomats before Trump took office.
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is new focus of Russia investigation
Trump’s decision to bring in Kasowitz won’t limit his ability to rely on White House Counsel Don McGahn, but McGahn’s own involvement in the controversies surrounding Flynn and Comey has raised even more questions.
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, whom Trump fired in January after she refused to defend his first travel ban, testified earlier this month before the Senate Intelligence Committee that she’d warned McGahn on Jan. 26 — three weeks before Flynn resigned — that Flynn’s ties to Russia could put him in a compromising position.
Specifically, she said she told McGahn that Flynn had put himself in a situation where he could be “blackmailed by the Russians” by lying publicly about his private conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
It isn’t clear what McGahn did with that information, although White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has repeatedly claimed that McGahn immediately told Trump of what Yates said and then concluded no criminal activity had occurred.
Russia claimed it had ‘derogatory’ intelligence on Trump
Meanwhile, Trump has also ditched the idea of creating a “war room” staffed with former allies to help defend his administration, Politico reported late Monday.
As recently as last week, talks were still underway to bring in former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager David Bossie to lead an internal effort to help contain the fallout from the Russia probe and get the White House back on message.
White House officials, however, decided that Kasowitz was best positioned to handle the entire effort, Politico reported.
Send a Letter to the Editor