Memo to Marc Kasowitz: SHHHHHH! WE CAN HEAR YOU!
In today’s installment of White House WhatTheFuckery, Pro Publica reports that Donald Trump’s attorney bragged about convincing his client to fire the US Attorney for New York Russian Mafia Guys, Preet Bharara.
Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations.
Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you,” according to a person familiar with Kasowitz’s account.
Marc Kasowitz, who has represented Sberbank and Deripaska. Marc Kasowitz, who is now representing Donald Trump in the Russian collusion investigation. Preet Bharara, who was investigating Russian money laundering in the New York real estate market.
And yet there’s a possible “get out of justice obstruction jail free” card: like his client, Kasowitz is known for bullshitting.
Those who know Kasowitz say he is sometimes prone to exaggerating when regaling them with his exploits. But if true, his assertion adds to the mystery surrounding the motive and timing of Bharara’s firing.
Maybe that stuff plays when you’re trying to build a reputation as “the toughest of the tough guys” in New York. But if Robert Mueller wants to investigate Preet Bharara’s firing, then Kasowitz just made himself a witness. Even if Kasowitz was just talking smack, he can’t be both counsel and a witness at the same trial.
And this developing story won’t help.
A+ lawyering there, dude!
Memo to Marc Kasowitz: DC IS NOT NEW YORK!
A competent attorney with gravitas and local connections might have been able to balance out Trump’s unhinged ignorance. But all the reputable DC lawyers already said NFW! If his reputation as a nightmare client who stiffs his lawyers didn’t send them running, watching him shred Rod Rosenstein’s credibility sure did. Also the tweets. And admitting that he obstructed justice on national television.
Sherri Dillon was too busy shifting Trump’s files around. PROBABLY.
So Trump turned to his old buddy Marc Kasowitz to bring his scorched-earth style down 95 to stuffy old DC. Kasowitz hit the ground running by threatening James Comey, a witness to a potential criminal investigation, with a civil complaint. Then he made some nonsense words that were supposed to imply that Comey had lied about his timeline, so GOTCHA! Except they were immediately disproven by the New York Times.
This launched a news cycle of ethics lawyers opining on the impropriety and potential sanctions for attorneys who knowingly make false statements. As former White House Ethics advisor Norm Eisen pointed out,
Kasowitz may be abusing his power as a lawyer.
“There can also be bar penalties for abuse of process, and civil ones for libel,” he said. “But we need to let this play out more before those assessments are made.”
Lawfare’s Quinta Juresic and Ben Wittes have a blunter assessment of Kasowitz’s incompetence, comparing him to Monica Lewinsky’s California lawyer William Ginsburg who confessed to having “kissed that girl’s inner thighs when she was six days old.” If Kasowitz kissed Trump anywhere, he spares us that info, TG! But like Ginsburg, Kasowitz doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.
Kasowitz comes from the rough and tumble world of New York real estate litigation. In that world, Kasowitz is a kind of a implementer of Trump’s broad strategy of using the law and the threat of litigation—whether merited or not—as a cudgel in business, a means of intimidating those in your way. The Washington legal culture of scandal management works differently. It is not sensitive to price; unlike a business competitor, you can’t outspend the federal government when it is committed to pursuing a high-stakes investigation. It is sensitive to public opinion. And reputational damage to the client matters a great deal more when the client has congressional and voter relations to maintain than when the only thing that matters is who wins, who pays, and how much.
Memo to Marc Kasowitz: Don’t Wing It!
Experienced DC attorneys let out a collective “Holy shit!” when the New York Times reported that Kasowitz was meeting with White House staff and telling them not to bother hiring their own lawyers.
In recent days, Mr. Kasowitz has advised White House aides to discuss the inquiry into Russia’s interference in last year’s election as little as possible, two people involved said. He told aides gathered in one meeting who had asked whether it was time to hire private lawyers that it was not yet necessary, according to another person with direct knowledge.
Former Bush official Paul Rosenzweig responded with a Lawfare article titled “Marc Kasowitz, Call Your Lawyer.”
Kasowitz represents Donald Trump, and Donald Trump alone. He does not represent other White House employees, and in fact his job is to throw them under the bus if it means protecting his client. If those aides are later called to testify, whatever advice Kasowitz gave them might be construed as witness tampering. Which is why the Rules of Professional Conduct in New York, where Kasowitz is barred, specifically prohibit chatting up potential witnesses against your client.
In communicating on behalf of a client with a person who is unrepresented by counsel . . . [t]he lawyer shall not give legal advice to an unrepresented person other than the advice to secure counsel if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the interests of such person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the client.
The New York Times reports that Kasowitz may set up an office in the White House complex, where he would come into daily contact with White House staffers who are bound to be called as witnesses in the ongoing investigations. Kasowitz may think these contacts are NBD, whatever. But Robert Mueller and any DC judge hearing the Russia investigation will not. Particularly since Kasowitz’s big DC debut was a press conference where he announced that ethics are not really his bag, baby. MORE OR LESS.
Guess who does have their own lawyers, though…
Jared and Ivanka Kushner.
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