George Conway: Why Trump had to hire this legal odd couple
Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post, and was written by Checks & Balances member George Conway.
The president has consistently encountered difficulty in hiring good lawyers to defend him. In 2017, after Robert S. Mueller III became special counsel, Trump couldn’t find a high-end law firm that would take him as a client. His reputation for nonpayment preceded him: One major Manhattan firm I know had once been forced to eat bills for millions in bond work it once did for Trump. No doubt other members of the legal community knew of other examples.
Of course, being cheap wasn’t the only reason Trump struck out among the nation’s legal elite. There was the fact that he would be an erratic client who’d never take reasonable direction — direction as in shut up and stop tweeting. Firms also understood that taking on Trump would kill their recruiting efforts: Top law students of varying political stripes who might be willing, even eager, to join a firm that provides pro bono representation to murderers on death row, want nothing to do with Trump.
That left Trump to be personally defended in the Mueller investigation by a random patchwork of counsel, including Jay Sekulow, a lawyer specializing in religious liberty cases, and John Dowd, a Washington solo practitioner who, according to Bob Woodward, viewed Trump as a “f—ing liar.” (Dowd denies that.) Last but not least, Trump had the assistance of Rudolph W. Giuliani — who has done more than anyone other than Trump himself to get Trump impeached.
Contrast that unimpressive crew with the team assembled by President Bill Clinton, who had not one, but two, top-notch law firms defending him: global powerhouse Skadden Arps, with heavy-hitter Bob Bennett, to handle the Paula Jones case; and the elite Washington defense firm, Williams & Connolly, led by the brilliant David Kendall, to handle the Whitewater investigation, its Monica Lewinsky spinoff and impeachment.
Precisely because he never had a defense team truly suited for the task at hand, Trump found the need now to add to the mix. But the mix still makes no sense. On the team, as of Friday, are the legal odd couple of Harvard Law School professor emeritus Dershowitz and former federal appeals court judge Starr.