Team Trump’s lawyers not al­ways on same page

Crowded group of at­tor­neys bound to col­lide with other clients

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Julie Pace and Julie Bykowicz

WASH­ING­TON» As the govern­ment’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions heat up, a grow­ing cast of lawyers is sign­ing up to de­fend Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his as­so­ci­ates. But the in­ter­ests of those lawyers — and their clients — don’t al­ways align, adding a new layer of drama and sus­pi­cion in a White House al­ready rife with in­ter­nal ri­val­ries.

Trump him­self has an out­side le­gal team and a new in-house spe­cial coun­sel, Den­ver-based Ty Cobb, for Rus­sia-re­lated mat- ters. White House se­nior ad­viser Jared Kush­ner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, has a pair of high-pow­ered at­tor­neys work­ing for him. The pres­i­dent’s son Don­ald Trump Jr. re­cently hired his own lawyer. And for­mer cam­paign aides who ex­pect to be caught up in the ex­pand­ing probes also are shop­ping for rep­re­sen­ta­tion — and deal­ing with sticker-shock over the price tags.

The re­sult is a crowded group of high­priced at­tor­neys bent on de­fend­ing their clients, even if it means el­bow­ing those clients’ col­leagues.

“Any one of those in­di­vid­u­als can an­tic­i­pate that they will be in a po­si­tion to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion ad­verse to any of the other in­di­vid­u­als,” said Stephen Gillers, a New York Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor and le­gal ethics ex­pert. “They have to have their own lawyer.”

The di­verg­ing in­ter­ests be­gan to emerge more clearly dur­ing last week’s fall­out over a June 2016 meet­ing with a Rus­sian at­tor­ney that both the pres­i­dent’s el­dest son and his son-in-law at­tended dur­ing the heat of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Le­gal teams for

dur­ing the heat of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Le­gal teams for the pres­i­dent, Trump Jr. and Kush­ner all dis­cussed the mat­ter be­fore the meet­ing was first re­ported by The New York Times. But the lawyers couldn’t agree on a sin­gle, pub­lic ex­pla­na­tion for the meet­ing and ul­ti­mately set­tled on a state­ment that had to be amended re­peat­edly as new in­for­ma­tion dripped out. The job of co­or­di­na­tion was es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing be­cause the lawyers couldn’t al­ways speak freely about what they knew, out of con­cern for at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple with knowl­edge of the dis­cus­sions.

With each new dis­clo­sure that fol­lowed, the lawyers tweaked their pub­lic state­ments — and anx­iously spec­u­lated over who in the group was dis­clos­ing the dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia.

Peo­ple with knowl­edge of the le­gal wran­gling in­sisted on anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.

In Trump’s in­ner cir­cle, a group long split into fac­tions, the po­ten­tial for fu­el­ing other of­fi­cials’ le­gal dif­fi­cul­ties could be high.

It’s all go­ing to get even more com­pli­cated as Jus­tice De­part­ment spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and three sep­a­rate con­gres­sional probes gather steam. Kush­ner is ex­pected to talk to the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee soon, and Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley wants to sum­mon Trump Jr. for tes­ti­mony.

The pres­i­dent and his son have tried to down­play last year’s meet­ing with Rus­sian at­tor­ney Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya.

“Most politi­cians would have gone to a meet­ing like the one Don jr at­tended in or­der to get info on an op­po­nent. That’s pol­i­tics!,” the pres­i­dent tweeted Mon­day.

Last week’s rev­e­la­tions helped prompt the pres­i­dent to bol­ster his own le­gal de­fense. He hired Cobb, an ex­pe­ri­enced white-col­lar at­tor­ney, who is slated to join the White House staff on July 31, ac­cord­ing to Cobb’s law firm. Cobb is ex­pected to play a pub­lic role, craft­ing of­fi­cial White House re­sponses to de­vel­op­ments.

His hir­ing came with an ac­knowl­edge­ment that the cur­rent ar­range­ment wasn’t work­ing. Trump’s per­sonal lawyers were sup­posed to take the pres­sure off the White House to re­spond to Rus­sia in­quiries. But it’s be­come un­ten­able for the West Wing staff to keep punt­ing ques­tions about the pres­i­dent.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.