WASHINGTON — Several prominent lawyers asked to help represent President Donald Trump in the last year have spurned the assignment at least partly out of concerns he wouldn’t pay his bills and doesn’t listen to legal advice, according to people familiar with the conversations.
The result is that as investigators intensify their focus on the president’s inner circle, including his personal lawyer, Trump has been left with a lean legal team that has struggled to add criminal defence firepower. Though more lawyers may come aboard soon, Trump has time and again struck out in landing some of Washington’s most notable attorneys. The extra help may be especially needed in the critical months ahead, as special counsel Robert Mueller seeks an interview with Trump and reaches conclusions on whether the president engaged in obstruction of justice.
That Trump does not have multiple brand-name criminal defence lawyers is startling since, in ordinary circumstances, representing the president in a hugely consequential legal fight would be a dream assignment. President Bill Clinton, for instance, was navigated through the Whitewater scandal by lawyers from Williams & Connolly, one of Washington’s most highly regarded firms.
At least one lawyer who was approached but rejected the opportunity made clear to the White House that he’d expect Trump to refrain from discussing the investigation on social media, according to a lawyer familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential client matters. That admonition has apparently gone unheeded.
In at least one other case, a major law firm that contemplated an overture to one of its lawyers was turned off by the idea of a “client who attacks the essence of our legal system” and concern that “he treats his lawyers like vendors he can avoid paying,” according to one person at the firm who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential client matters. That concern is rooted in a multitude of lawsuits Trump and his business organization have faced from lawyers, real estate brokers and others over unpaid bills. Just one example: A Florida golf club owned by Trump agreed this year to a multimillion-dollar settlement with former members who said the club refused to refund their deposits.
“Obviously this is an unusual situation because it’s perfectly obvious that Mr. Trump likes to be his own lawyer, and lawyers have to be concerned about their own reputation. And I’m sure that factors into their thinking,” said …read more