Note: this story was originally published by MSNBC, and includes quotes from Checks & Balances members George Conway and Carrie Cordero.
It wasn’t until late last week that Donald Trump’s legal team expanded in preparation for the Senate’s impeachment trial, and as the Center for a New American Security’s Carrie Cordero noted, it’s not exactly a powerhouse roster.
“Contrary to tone of some coverage, I’m struck by the *lack* of conservative legal star power on Trump’s impeachment team,” Cordero wrote, adding that there’s “no credible constitutional superstar.”
George Conway appeared to be thinking along the same lines, arguing in a Washington Post op-ed, “This is what happens when you don’t pay your legal bills.”
President Trump, whose businesses and now campaign have left a long trail of unpaid bills behind them, has never discriminated when it comes to stiffing people who work for him. That includes lawyers — which is part of the reason he found the need to make some curious last-minute tweaks to his team, announcing the addition of the legal odd couple of Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth W. Starr.
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.
There was a point a couple of years ago, as the president’s Russia scandal was intensifying, when he needed sound legal representation and bragged that the “top” law firms were eager to take him on as a client. That was very hard to believe: I put together a list in April 2018 of the lawyers who’d turned Trump down, and it wasn’t an especially short list.
There’s been no comparable reporting of late about specific, high-profile lawyers rejecting the president’s overtures ahead of his impeachment trial, but it seems as if Trump has ended up with a group of attorneys he chose because he saw them on television.