At the end of last week, word was that with the exit of John Dowd, President Trump’s lead attorney in the special counsel investigation, Trump was bringing on the husband-and-wife legal team of Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing. It turns out, though, that conflicts of interest will prevent them from assuming those positions. Their firm already represents at least one client who will be testifying in the investigation.
One problem for Trump: Robert Mueller is fishing in such a huge lake that it’s hard to find a lawyer in Washington DC without an existing client who represents a conflict of interest. In general, though, such conflicts are a fact of life in the legal profession, at least among attorneys who still have enough integrity to avoid cases in which they HAVE conflicts of interest. Attorneys with that kind of integrity appear to be on the endangered species list –- in Washington, they must be nearly extinct. In fact, after many months of following the twists and turns of the Hillary Clinton email case as it was dealt with by friends and supporters at the DOJ, FBI and State Department, the term “conflict of interest” seems to have lost all meaning.
Certainly Andrew McCabe didn’t let a huge conflict of interest --- namely, ridiculously huge Hillary-connected donations to his wife’s unsuccessful state senate campaign --- get in the way of his leading the investigation into Hillary’s mishandling of classified material. He and others at the FBI didn’t let their vicious anti-Trump bias lead to their recusal from investigating Trump, either. Bruce Ohr wasn’t about to let the fact that his wife was being paid by Fusion GPS create a conflict of interest at the Justice Department; he just kicked it under the rug.
Stunningly, Robert Mueller didn’t let the reality that his dear friend and protege, former FBI Director James Comey, would be a witness in his investigation and a key figure in the matter of obstruction of justice stop him from taking the job as special counsel. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was certainly aware of this conflict, but he appointed Mueller anyway. And Peter Strzok had no problem with taking a job on Mueller’s team despite his intense personal bias, and if those texts between him and Lisa Page hadn’t turned up, he’d no doubt still be feverishly investigating Trump.
“Conflict of interest”? What’s that?
But, of course, this necessary about-face on the hiring of two lawyers is reported by the mainstream media as “disarray.” Two lawyers very much on Trump’s side in this case have actually taken an ethical stance, and the Washington Post lumps it in with what they call the “unraveling” of Trump’s legal team. (WaPo also reported that Trump became rather disappointed with diGenova after meeting with him personally; this comment, as is typical, came from one anonymous source, “a person who spoke to the President recently.” Ah, an expert.)
Gee, for people who obviously don’t like Trump and would love nothing more than to see him impeached, reporters sure seem concerned about the quality of his legal representation. Isn’t it nice of them to care so much about his ability to defend himself? That’s altruism, my friends.
I recall that back when Bill and Hillary Clinton were involved in one scandal after another (and another and another and another), the White House had a revolving door just for lawyers. The long list of attorneys who had served for a time as part of Bill’s ever-changing legal team –- a huge roster of personal attorneys and White House counsel –- was a running joke in conservative circles. If the mainstream media noted any “disarray” then, it was no doubt with genuine, not feigned, concern for him and his administration and utter disdain for independent counsel Ken Starr and that “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
Yes, it’s a challenge in this situation for President Trump to find suitable attorneys. If you’ve ever been involved in litigation, you know how sickeningly all-consuming that is. It can just sap the life out of you. Now, imagine being stuck as the subject of a ginned-up investigation into something you did not do while you’re trying to do the job of THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. For the good of the country, this litigation needs to end, and end soon.