The Post reports on President Trump’s hiring of yet another lawyer, Joseph diGenova, a former prosecutor better known for his loopy commentary on Fox News:
He told Fox News Channel in January that the investigation is “a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”
“Make no mistake about it: A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime,” diGenova said. . . .
We know that Trump seems to like hiring people who say things he likes on cable TV, and diGenova has supplied no shortage of that. Much of diGenova’s commentary has described a vast law-enforcement conspiracy to take down Trump.
He has called for locking up former FBI director James B. Comey, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and “senior Obama administration Justice Department officials.” He frequently accuses FBI officials and Justice Department lawyers of lying; he’s quick to call the appointment of the special counsel illegitimate.
I’m sure Mueller is quaking in his boots — but more likely, watching with bemusement. None of diGenova’s bile amounts to a legal argument, and he’s yet to produce facts to substantiate his wildest claims. How he is supposed to be of help to Trump in the legal context, as he potentially faces a host of serious claims, is far from clear. It may be that he has simply been hired to spew bombast and accusations.
Meanwhile, Trump’s other lawyers — including John Dowd, who had to walk back a declaration that the Russia investigation should shut down — came up with a real knee-slapper. The Post reports:
Trump’s attorneys have provided the special counsel’s office with written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation in hopes of curtailing the scope of a presidential interview, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Trump’s legal team recently shared the documents in an effort to limit any session between the president and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to a few select topics, the people said. The lawyers are worried that Trump, who has a penchant for making erroneous claims, would be vulnerable in an hours-long interview.
Now, why in the world would Mueller accept a lawyer’s written account in lieu of live testimony from Trump? He wouldn’t, of course. So what’s the point of the latest stunt — to assuage an unreasonable client? To set up an excuse for Trump not to sit down for an interview? If so, Mueller is sure to ask the grand jury to issue a subpoena and force Trump to appear (without lawyers) in front of a grand jury.
All of this clownish legal behavior leaves one wondering whether Trump really understands the gravity of the situation. Someone who could well face an impeachment referral or indictment (if not during his presidency, then after) would want, you’d think, top-notch lawyers who are expert in white-collar crime and constitutional law. Instead, he has hired people to hurl wild accusations, float wild-eyed legal theories and insult the prosecutors. It is as if Trump thinks that is what skilled, effective lawyers do.
There are several explanations for the Trump team’s peculiar legal antics.
First, we know Trump was turned down as a client by leading law firms. Maybe, the second- and third-rate lawyers are the only ones to work for him. In other words, perhaps Trump’s team has no idea what is required and, like Trump, tries to get by with arm-waving and red meat for Trump’s base. In short, his dream legal team is faking its way through events that may have grave consequences.
Second, Trump may not fully grasp this isn’t a real estate lawsuit or one of his cooked-up defamation claims. He tends to think of everything as a power play and a matter of spin. He seems to imagine that bluff and bluster, in and out of the courtroom, are the way to go no matter what the situation. This proceeding, however, is going to be governed by laws and facts, which do not dissipate in the face of Trump’s grandstanding. He’s hiring people who play lawyers on TV when he needs a really good team of lawyers.
Third, and most troubling, perhaps he has gotten it into his head that he’ll refuse an interview with Mueller no matter what, pardon everyone (including himself) and never have to face the legal music. He can try that, but it would spell the end of his presidency. Moreover, the notion that a president can pardon himself is widely disparaged by constitutional lawyers. (He certainly cannot pardon himself of state crimes, by the way.)
In any event, Trump’s lawyers are not behaving in ways designed to help their client avoid serious legal repercussions. Whether by design or necessity, failure to secure serious legal thinkers to aid in his defense may result in serious legal jeopardy for Trump. It wouldn’t be the first time his own arrogance came back to bite him.