Trump Hires Outside Lawyer For Russia Investigations
Trump's decision to retain outside counsel is not surprising. Whether he will listen to Kasowitz any more than he appears to be listening to his White House advisers, of course, is an entirely different question.
President Trump is bringing in an outside lawyer to help in handling the ongoing Russia investigations:
President Trump has retained the services of a trusted lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and suspected Russian interference in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the decision.
Kasowitz, who has known Trump for decades, has represented Trump in numerous cases, including on his divorce records, real estate transactions and allegations of fraud at Trump University. He is a partner at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in New York.
With the appointment last week of a special counsel to probe alleged Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the stakes have been raised considerably for the Republican president and his associates. Trump has repeatedly denied that he did anything improper and has said that he has been told he is not under investigation.
The White House had no immediate comment on Kasowitz’s hiring. Those who confirmed the decision spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the move.
In recent days, Trump has been looking at pulling together a unit of lawyers outside the White House to guide him as he responds to the ongoing federal probe and to congressional investigations. It was not immediately clear Tuesday night what other lawyers might be joining Kasowitz as part of such a team.
According to several people familiar with the deliberations, other attorneys under consideration have included Robert J. Giuffra Jr.; Reid H. Weingarten; and Theodore B. Olson.
A potential complication for Kasowitz is that former senator Joseph I. Lieberman, among Trump’s leading candidates to head the FBI, is currently a senior counsel at his firm.
Were Lieberman officially chosen to run the FBI, and Kasowitz chosen to help with Trump’s legal advice, both men — the one leading the organization investigating possible Russian collusion and the one offering Trump legal counsel on that very issue — would hail from the same firm, likely presenting a conflict of interest.
The White House did not respond this week to requests for comment about how Trump would pay for his outside legal team, the cost of which cannot be covered by the federal government. But campaign finance lawyers said Trump could probably draw funds from his reelection committee to cover legal expenses related to the Russia inquiries, including money donated this year.
Among those also under consideration to join the team, Giuffra, Olson and Weingarten have already spoken with senior administration officials about the team, said a person familiar with the process.
In what may be related news, it’s being reported this morning that former Senator Joe Lieberman is off the short list for F.B.I. Director, perhaps due to the conflict of interest noted above:
Joe Lieberman no longer being considered for FBI director. President’s team has hit the restart button on the search for a new FBI Director
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) May 24, 2017
In any case, given all of the developments we’ve seen in this matter, including the fact that a special counsel has been appointed to investigate these matters, and the widening Congressional inquiries, Trump’s decision to retain outside counsel is not surprising. Whether he will listen to Kasowitz any more than he appears to be listening to his White House advisers, of course, is an entirely different question.