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Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 6:38 PM
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 6:38 PM
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 both an outside legal team and a new in-house special counsel, Ty Cobb, for Russia-related matters. 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 are also shopping for representation — and dealing with sticker-shock over the price tags.
The result is a crowded group of high-priced attorneys bent on defending their own 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 son and his son-in-law attended 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 repeatedly amended as new information dripped out.
On Monday, Alan Futerfas, the attorney for the president's son, said Trump Jr. had been "absolutely prepared" to make a "fulsome statement" about how the meeting was arranged and what discussions took place. He did not respond to questions about why the initial statement about the matter, which was seen by the president, lacked some of those details.
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 both 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 both 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.
But emails about the meeting that were released by Trump Jr. rattled some White House advisers, particularly his enthusiastic response to being told directly that the attorney had damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton that was being provided by the Russian government.
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.
"We end up spending a lot of time talking to the counsel's office about what can and can't be referred to outside counsel, what still remains in our purview," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday. Spicer said he did not believe Cobb had vetted the president's tweet on Monday.
Trump will continue to work with the outside legal team already representing his personal interests: Jay Sekulow, a frequent television commentator, and New York-based attorney Marc Kasowitz, whose unconventional style has left some aides to the president unimpressed.
Kasowitz and Sekulow don't work out of the White House, though both are there on occasion for meetings with the president. Sekulow made multiple appearances at the White House last week as the controversy over the meeting with the Russian lawyer unfolded.
The expanding legal teams come at a cost.
The Trump presidential campaign has spent almost $1 million on legal fees since the beginning of the year, according to a campaign finance report filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission. That includes a $50,000 charge for the law firm of Alan Futerfas, who is representing Trump Jr. The payment was made nearly two weeks before news reports about the younger Trump's Russia meeting.
A large chunk of the campaign's legal expenses are for Jones Day, White House Counsel Don McGahn's former employer. The firm has continued to represent the campaign for standard services affiliated with any political committee. But Jones Day's fees more than doubled in the most recent quarter, compared to the first three month of the year, the FEC reports show, a period that coincides with the deepening Russia quagmire.
Several former campaign advisers who expect to have to testify before Congress are also hiring lawyers, but they're picking up the cost themselves. The House intelligence committee had planned to interview longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone and campaign digital director Brad Parscale before the August recess, but both interviews have been delayed.
Michael Caputo, another former campaign aide, met with House lawmakers last week and says he expects to testify again in front of senators and potentially Mueller's team. Caputo is being represented by former New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco, and said he's liquidating his children's college funds to pay the bills.
Asked about the campaign money covering Don Jr. and other folks' legal fees, he responded: "Lucky for them. And unlucky for me. And unlucky for my children who are now going to community college."
AP writers Eric Tucker, Jill Colvin and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 9:07 AM
— A new ad released by President Donald Trump's campaign is claiming that Democrats are “complicit” in killings by undocumented immigrants. The ad was released after Senate Democrats opposed a short-term spending bill to keep the government from shutting down.
“President Trump is right — build the wall, deport criminals, stop illegal immigration now,” the ad said, showing clips of top Democrats. “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”
“President Trump will fix our border and keep our families safe,” the ad concluded. The ad was released on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.
On Friday, Senate Democrats opposed a short-term spending bill to fund the government and keep it from shutting down after Republicans refused to include a provision to protect thousands of immigrants brought here as children.
President Trump bashed Democrats after the failed vote, saying that they wanted “unchecked illegal immigration.”
“Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!” he tweeted Saturday morning.
Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2018
Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border. They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead. #WeNeedMoreRepublicansIn18 in order to power through mess!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2018
(H/t: The Hill)
Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 12:20 PM
— A series of women’s marches, protests and voter registration events are taking place across the country this weekend.
This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. In 2017, the Women’s March on Washington drew a large crowd that marched in protest of Trump’s election. Women’s marches were held across the country and the world.
For 2018, marches and rallies are being held in cities across the country throughout the weekend. There will be a voter registration drive on Sunday in Las Vegas.
Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 11:35 AM
PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump will not make a planned trip to Mar-a-Lago today because of a looming federal government shutdown, a White House official told The Palm Beach Post on Friday morning.
Trump was scheduled to arrive at Palm Beach International Airport tonight for a weekend trip that included a Saturday fundraiser for his 2020 re-election campaign at Mar-a-Lago. The official who confirmed today’s travel is off did not address the president’s plans for the remainder of the weekend.
Trump was planning to make the 12th Palm Beach visit of his presidency. But Congress has not reached a spending agreement to keep the federal government operating past midnight.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:16 PM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is in excellent health and likely to finish his term in office without any medical issues, a presidential doctor said Tuesday at a news conference, four days after the president underwent a physical exam.
“The president's overall health is excellent," White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson said Tuesday.
Here are six things to know about the results of the president’s physical:
Jackson: ‘He had great findings across the board’
Trump is in “very, very good health,” Jackson said Tuesday.
“(I have) no concerns for his heart health,” the presidential physician said. “There are many good things that came from his exam, I think he had great findings across the board. “
Jackson said Trump’s good health is likely to last through “the remainder of this tern, and even for the remainder of another term, if he’s elected.” He said he based his assessment on the president’s cardiac results.
“He falls into a category that portends years of event-free living,” Jackson said. “He has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.”
White House doctor says despite President Trump's fast food habit and lack of exercise, he's in "excellent" condition; "He has incredibly good genes, and it's just the way God made him" https://t.co/fpNP3Hpnco pic.twitter.com/VGoTFSgp7C— CNN (@CNN) January 16, 2018
Cognitive screening showed no issues
Jackson said he conducted a cognitive screening on Trump at the president’s request, although he felt the test was unnecessary.
“I’ve spent almost every day in the president’s presence,” said Jackson, whose office is near Trump’s. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or neurological functions.”
He said that in all his conversations with Trump, the president has been “very articulate.”
“I’ve never known him to repeat himself around me,” Jackson said. “He says what he wants to say and speaks his mind.”
Infamous slurred speech incident might have been caused by medication
A December incident in which the president sounded as though he was slurring his speech while announcing a policy shift in Israel was probably due to a medication, Jackson said.
“We evaluated him, we checked everything out and everything was normal,” Jackson said, adding that the incident was likely caused because the president needed water.
He said prior to the Dec. 7 incident, he gave Trump Sudafed, which might have “inadvertently dried up his secretions.”
Trump working to lose 10-15 pounds
At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, the president has a body mass index of 29.9, just under the number that would designate him as obese, according to information released Tuesday.
“The president, he and I talked and... I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is (to lose) 10 or 15 pounds,” Jackson said, adding that a nutritionist would be meeting with White House chefs in the coming weeks and that Trump would be put on an exercise routine.
“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet,” Jackson said.
Jackson not concerned about Trump’s stress levels
Despite concerns from the public and reports that have painted a chaotic White House, Jackson said that he has no concerns about the president’s stress levels.
“I talk to him sometimes about stress just because I think it’s my job as his physician to bring it up on occasion,” he said. “I’ve never seen the president stressed out too much. ... He has a unique ability to push the reset button and he just gets up and he starts a new day. (I think it’s) made him healthier from a stress standpoint.”
Jackson did not test Trump’s hearing