A prominent Chicago defense attorney said Monday that he had declined an invitation to lead President Trump’s legal team responding to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, underscoring the president’s difficulty in attracting top legal talent to represent him in the probe.
Dan K. Webb, a Republican, is a former U.S. attorney for Illinois and a corporate and white-collar-defense lawyer for the firm Winston and Strawn.
In a statement, his firm said the president and his team recently reached out to Webb and D.C.-based partner Tom Buchanan.
“They were unable to take on the representation due to business conflicts. However they consider the opportunity to represent the President to be the highest honor and they sincerely regret that they cannot do so,” the firm said. “They wish the president the best and believe he has excellent representation in Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow,” referring to the two lawyers now handling Trump’s defense.
Trump’s legal team has been in crisis mode since last week, after his lawyer John Dowd abruptly resigned Thursday, following strategic disputes with the president and the announcement that Trump was adding Joseph diGenova, an aggressive television personality, to the team. Trump advisers said they also hoped diGenova’s wife, Victoria Toensing, also a lawyer, would join the group of attorneys representing the president.
But Sunday, Trump reversed course, as Sekulow announced that diGenova and Toensing had conflicts of interest due to current clients and neither would join the team, which is currently without a traditional criminal-defense attorney.
Trump and his allies have been reaching out to several lawyers in recent weeks, including some who had turned Trump down after he interviewed them last spring and summer to be his personal lawyer in Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the president’s campaign coordinated with Russia in this effort.
Cobb has been handling the probe from the White House Counsel’s Office, formally representing the office of the presidency and not Trump personally. Sekulow is the lead counsel currently representing Trump.
Sekulow is a constitutional lawyer and radio host who has been quick to acknowledge that he lacks the experience to oversee a complex criminal investigation like the one the White House and Trump now face.
With a reputation for failing to pay lawyers or follow their legal advice, Trump has struggled to find another top-notch lawyer to take his case.
Trump had asked Sekulow to reach out to Theodore B. Olson on March 19. By the next morning, after The Washington Post reported the offer to Olson, his firm — Gibson, Dunn — was insisting that Olson would not take the job.
Olson said Monday in a television appearance on MSNBC that the White House appeared to be in regular “turmoil” and “chaos” with a new departure and White House shake-up every other day. “This seems to be beyond normal,” Olson said.
Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.