Donald Trump is facing legal jeopardy on multiple fronts. Here are the lawyers in his corner.April 7, 2021
- Donald Trump has a stable of lawyers as he confronts legal risk on many fronts in his post-presidency.
- With big firms reluctant to represent him, Trump has leaned on lawyers who helped in his election fights.
- In cases arising out of the Capitol insurrection, Trump has turned to a lawyer who once defended Michael Flynn.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Sekulow played a leading role defending then-President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial and remains a key figure in Trump’s post-presidency orbit of lawyers.
Last year, as Trump made baseless claims of electoral fraud, Sekulow argued on behalf of the then-president in a challenge to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that granted three extra days for the receipt of mail-in votes. The US Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the case.
Ahead of Trump’s second impeachment, over remarks that were seen as inciting a violent mob to storm the Capitol, Sekulow warned that it would be a “gigantic mistake” to seek Trump’s removal and disbarment from holding future office.
“Why divide the country so significantly when the president in fact is going to be out of office in 12 days?” Sekulow asked on his daily radio show.
Read more: Trump and his advisors are shrugging off DOJ’s Capitol riot probe. But they see danger in the Georgia and New York investigations.
But, like other members of Trump’s first impeachment defense team, Sekulow was notably absent from the second Senate impeachment trial. One former Trump administration official told Insider that Sekulow had been “stiff-arming” the former president.
“He didn’t participate in the impeachment. He didn’t do a lot of things I know the president would have preferred to have him in — some things that he skillfully avoided,” the former administration official said.
Still, Sekulow is among the lawyers representing Trump as the Manhattan district attorney and New York state attorney general mount investigations into him and the Trump Organization.
On his radio show, Sekulow has featured prominent Trump appointees — including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rick Grenell, the former acting director of US National Intelligence — as he has remained firmly in Trumpworld.
A former clerk of Justice Clarence Thomas, Consovoy rose to prominence in the Trump administration defending the then-president against House Democrats’ efforts to obtain his personal financial records.
Consovoy also joined with Trump’s defense lawyers in New York to head off the Manhattan district attorney’s pursuit of the former president’s tax returns. The case reached the US Supreme Court, which in a 7-2 ruling cleared the way for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to gain access to Trump’s closely-held financial records.
Ahead of the 2020 election, Consovoy was among the lawyers for Trump who challenged a Nevada law that called for registered voters in the state to automatically receive mail-in ballots and set a minimum number of polling places for in-person voters.
The court challenge, like many filed on Trump’s behalf after the election, was dismissed.
A once little-known lawyer in Alexandria, Virginia, Binnall joined right-wing lawyer Sidney Powell in defending former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn.
The Justice Department ultimately moved to drop the prosecution of Flynn, drawing scrutiny from a federal judge in Washington who questioned the unusual abandonment of a case in which the former Trump advisor twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his past communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Trump pardoned Flynn along with several other close associates in the waning weeks of his presidency.
Binnall has more recently stepped in to defend Trump against lawsuits brought by House Democrats alleging that he incited the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. Five people died in the melee.
In a separate case, Binnall is defending Trump against claims that he violated the Voting Rights Act with his efforts to overturn the election results.
As a top lawyer for the Trump campaign, Cannon has been tasked with the unwinding of the 2020 Trump reelection operation. He is likely to figure prominently in preparations for a possible 2024 Trump presidential campaign, which Trump has increasingly teased in public remarks since leaving the White House.
“You do have hope, that I can tell you. You do have hope,” Trump said recently on his daughter-in-law Lara Trump’s podcast, when asked whether his supporters had hope of another presidential run.
Formerly a top deputy to Trump’s son, Eric Trump, Insider in December reported that Cannon was closely involved in the creation of a Trump campaign shell company that helped hide $617 million in 2020 presidential-campaign spending.
Clark, a former Trump deputy campaign manager, continues to coordinate the former president’s legal efforts since the 2020 election, according to Trump advisors.
But multiple Trump advisors have criticized Clark over his handling of court fights across battleground states that fizzled as Trump and his supporters made meritless claims of rampant electoral fraud.
Clark has long been a member of Trump’s political operation, starting from his work on the 2016 campaign and continuing into Trump’s post-presidency.
In the intervening years, he worked closely with Trump’s former White House political director and 2020 campaign manager, Bill Stepien. The pair continue to form an influential power center in Trump’s orbit.
The Trump administration alumni
While viewed with suspicion among some of Trump’s most loyal supporters, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other lawyers from the past administration have remained in contact with the 45th president — or at least his papers.
Trump picked Cipollone, along with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former National Security Council legal advisor John Eisenberg, to serve as gatekeepers to records from his presidency. Those papers are now the property of the National Archives and Records Administration, and they could become available to the Biden administration, although Trump and his lawyers can try to withhold them by claiming executive privilege.
Also on the records team is Steven Engel, who signed off on a number of legal opinions supportive of Trump while leading the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under the last administration. Trump also picked three former deputy White House counsels for the team, including Patrick Philbin, Michael Purpura and Scott Gast.
Purpura, Philbin, and Cipollone all represented Trump during his first impeachment trial.
Eisenberg found himself at the center of the first impeachment after having a transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president moved to a highly-classified server. Two witnesses in the impeachment proceedings, then-Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and National Security Council advisor Fiona Hill, had also raised concerns with Eisenberg about comments Trump and the former ambassador to the European Union made to Ukrainian officials.
Herschmann advocated against the first impeachment of Trump before joining the White House as a senior advisor later in 2020.
At the Senate impeachment trial, which centered on Trump’s bid to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into now-President Joe Biden and his family, Herschmann’s arguments featured claims about Hunter Biden’s membership on the board of one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies.
“You can pay family members from our highest government officials and no one is allowed to ask questions?” Herschmann said during the proceedings. “What was going on?”
Herschmann’s White House role put him at the center of a contentious meeting that, as Axios reported in February, pit election “conspiracists against a handful of White House lawyers and advisers determined to keep the president from giving in to temptation to invoke emergency national security powers, seize voting machines and disable the primary levers of American democracy.”
During the meeting, Trump supporters accused Herschmann of being a “quitter.” Among them: Powell, former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, who wanted more aggressive action to overturn Biden’s electoral victory.=
When Byrne accused him of “interfering with everything” and “cutting us off,” Herschmann reportedly snapped: “Do you even know who the f— I am, you idiot?”
“Yeah, you’re Patrick Cipollone,” Byrne replied, according to Axios.
“Wrong! Wrong, you idiot!” Herschmann said.
Before joining the White House, Herschmann was a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres, a law firm closely associated with Trump.
Trump's New York team
In New York, Trump has held onto a respected team of defense lawyers as investigations by the Manhattan district attorney and state attorney general have picked up steam in recent months.
The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, rejected Trump’s arguments for withholding financial records from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which recently issued a separate subpoena seeking the bank records of the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, the New York Times reported.
Among his defense lawyers is Marc Mukasey, a New York-based criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor with long-running ties to Rudolph Giuliani. The son of former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, he has represented the Trump Organization and also counseled a top aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal.
More recently, Mukasey represented Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher as he faced accusations in military court that he killed a wounded Islamic State captive in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was acquitted of murder but found guilty of a lesser charge connected to his posing for a photograph with the prisoner’s corpse, in a case that featured what many viewed as inappropriate interventions by Trump.
Trump is also defended in New York by Alan Futerfas and Jane Raskin, a criminal defense lawyer who had previously helped the former president in the Russia investigation and in his first impeachment trial. She was brought into Trump’s orbit by Sekulow, who is expected to continue to play a prominent role in any new lawyer hiring.
Lawrence Rosen, a defense attorney who advised Trump on legal issues tied to a hush-money payment to the adult-film star known as Stormy Daniels, is assisting the former president in the New York attorney general’s investigation.
Trump spent his one-term presidency churning through and oftentimes clashing with his lawyers.
During the Russia investigation, he cycled through a cast of high-profile defense counsel, including John Dowd, Emmet Flood, Ty Cobb, Don McGahn, Sekulow and Cipollone, who served either in White House roles or as Trump’s personal lawyers.
Since Trump’s electoral defeat in November, the lawyer churn has only continued — with some of Trump’s most fiercely loyal lawyers suddenly dropping out of his orbit.
Within weeks of the election, Trump’s legal team distanced itself from Powell after the conservative lawyer made a string of inaccurate, conspiratorial, or otherwise bizarre claims about the 2020 vote. Powell at one point pledged to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.
Months removed from the election, she has found herself an outcast from Trumpworld and facing a defamation lawsuit from election infrastructure company Dominion Voting Systems. The litigation has brought more embarrassment upon Powell, who stated in a recent court filing that “reasonable people would not accept” her claims of widespread election fraud “as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”
Giuliani, who joined Powell in peddling baseless claims of electoral fraud, has similarly drifted away from Trumpworld, according to the former president’s advisors.
Some Trump advisors told Insider that Giuliani’s diminished status could be linked to Giuliani’s own legal jeopardy as his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and his extensive dealings in Ukraine come under scrutiny.
But others close to Trump said it was unlikely that the two had completely fallen out given their decades-long relationship.
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