Before hiring veteran New York attorney Marc Kasowitz to defend President Donald Trump as the federal investigations into his campaign and administration heat up, the White House knocked on the doors of D.C.’s top tier law firms, only to be turned away.
A new report by Yahoo News lists both the prominent attorneys who have turned down the offer to represent the leader of the free world and their reasons for doing so.
Sources told Yahoo News that the prestigious D.C. lawyers—among them Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly; Ted Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Paul Clement and Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis; and Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell—fear taking on the president as a client would hurt their firms’ reputations and threaten their ability to recruit clients in the future. “Do I want to be associated with this president and his policies?” one said.
They also expressed concern that “the guy won’t pay and he won’t listen,” referring to the President’s habits of rejecting the advise of his attorneys and advisers and going rogue on a whim, and of dragging his feet on paying legal bills. Some of the attorneys also cited potential conflicts of interest, because they already represent people or companies that have received subpoenas related to the sprawling Russia investigation, in which the FBI and congressional committees are examining everything from off-the-books foreign lobbying to money laundering.
Several former White House attorneys told TPM that they too see the current president as a particularly problematic client.
“He deserves representation. Everybody does. But if I got the telephone call, the answer would be no,” said Lanny Davis, the White House special counsel in charge of political and legal controversies during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. “There are people who say, ‘Davis, you’d represent anyone.” But the answer is no, I would not.”
Since leaving the White House, Davis’ list of controversial clients include the dictators of Equatorial Guinea and the Ivory Coast, and Penn State, which he advised on rebuilding its image after its child molestation scandal.
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.