With Trump attorney Michael Cohen on a very hot seat and maybe willing to sing to prosecutors, the sorry state of the president’s legal team has become too clear to be left alone. So now it has added a celebrity lawyer with the added credential of being a trusted crony of the president’s: former New York mayor and U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Rudy’s accession to the team was announced by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, a former ally of Giuliani’s in the fight against the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in New York.
The appointment had the aroma of a 911 call in the emergency of a legal staff nobody much wanted to join. Here’s what one experienced defense attorney had to say in an interview with Quartz about the problem Team Trump was having in recruiting new members:
Every lawyer I know who has been contacted by the White House has represented terrible people in the past, and they all said, “no thanks.”
Two reasons: One is the traditional stuff, he’s a terrible client who won’t listen and won’t pay — a disaster combo. The second reason is the stink of it. Their job is not to divine who’s good and who’s bad — defense attorneys ensure that even the most disgusting among us get due process.
But this has other value judgements — no one wants to take a case with all these other headaches and go down in flames in front of the entire world. Be associated with this guy, spend all your time and not get paid, alienate all of your other clients (current and future) and lose dramatically? There is just no upside. Those with the big names already don’t need it and the up and comers don’t want all the risks.
Guiliani is 73 years old, and his glory days as a federal prosecutor ended upon his election as Mayor of New York a quarter century ago. Yes, he did some defense work after his mayoral career ended; his most notable case involved negotiating a plea deal for OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma, which isn’t the sort of thing one would boast of now.
But the really strange thing about Rudy clambering aboard the rickety jalopy of Trump’s legal team is that he’s describing his mission as a brisk mopping-up operation to get Robert Mueller (an acquaintance from his own Justice Department days) off his client’s back:
This claim will not enhance Giuliani’s reputation as acute legal analyst.
But that probably doesn’t matter. Giuliani’s confident prediction that Mueller has no reason to investigate the president could well be a setup to an enormous White House freak-out when — surprise! surprise! — the special counsel does not after all agree to call the whole thing off.
In the meantime, the Giuliani hiring might take some of the spotlight away from Cohen and give the false impression of a serious upgrade in the talent deployed to protect Trump and his associates. It’s what friends do for friends.