Pence Lawyers Up
We haven’t seen much of Vice-President Pence in public lately, but behind the scenes, he’s reacting to the growing investigation of the Trump Administration:
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has hired a personal criminal defense lawyer to guide him through the various investigations encircling the White House, an aide said on Thursday.
Mr. Pence has retained Richard Cullen, a former United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, becoming one of the most prominent figures in the Trump administration to have taken on personal white-collar criminal defense counsel.
Mr. Pence, who had little relationship with the president before joining the campaign ticket just before last July’s Republican convention, is most likely a peripheral figure in the government’s inquiry into Russia’s interference in the election and potential collusion with members of the Trump campaign. Paul Manafort — Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman who has been scrutinized for financial ties to a pro-Russian political party — was instrumental in recruiting Mr. Pence.
But as the special counsel investigation progresses — focusing increasingly on the president himself and his actions in office — the vice president’s account as a possible witness may become more relevant.
“The vice president is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the president’s agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter,” Jarrod Agen, Mr. Pence’s communications director, said in confirming the hiring, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
Major Washington investigations, whether the inquiry into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Whitewater real estate holdings or the inquiry into the leak of a covert C.I.A. agent’s identity during the administration of George W. Bush, have been boons for the practice of white-collar law, which blossomed during the Watergate scandal and transformed boutique practices into major business for global firms.
The list of potential witnesses in such politically perilous investigations can be long, and even witnesses with little direct involvement are likely to need lawyers to shepherd them through interactions with the authorities.
“Whenever a Washington scandal breaks that comes close to the White House, you have people at all levels scrambling for a good white-collar lawyer,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a professor of criminal law at Georgetown University who worked on the Whitewater case.
Ms. O’Sullivan said that anyone subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury should consider invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which she called a “white-collar rule of thumb.”
“In Washington, people often don’t follow that,” Ms. O’Sullivan said, adding that many politicians wrongly equated exercising that right with telegraphing guilt. “Experience is everything,” she said.
Pence will no doubt be the first of many people close to Trump to hire outside counsel. This entire investigation will be the best thing to happen to the District of Columbia Bar in decades.