As a noted Republican lawyer and a professed member of the minuscule anti-Trump faction of his party, George Conway’s opinions on Donald Trump’s legal defense team for the impeachment trial that Conway is hoping — like so many of us — will result in the president’s removal from office are of more than passing interest.
Conway expressed those opinions in an op-ed today in The Washington Post that attempts to explain the recent addition of what he calls “the legal odd couple of Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth W. Starr” to the president’s battery of legal counsels as a consequence of Trump’s reputation for being a deadbeat client of major law firms in his chequered litigious past.
With an insider’s knowledge of legal industry scuttlebutt, Mr. Conway provides concrete examples of why Trump has had such difficulty in finding quality attorneys to represent 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,” Conway says about his wife’s employer.
The husband of one of Trump’s most trusted and longest-serving political advisors, Kellyanne Conway, adds that this isn’t the only impediment that the president faces as prestigious law firms consider whether to represent him, an assignment that they would be crawling over each other to win with any other president.
“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. Firms also understood that taking on Trump would kill their recruiting efforts: Top law students of varying political stripes who might be willing, even eager, to join a firm that provides pro bono representation to murderers on death row, want nothing to do with Trump,” Mr. Conway acidly notes.
Conway enumerates the attorneys currently representing Trump — a motley crew that he refers to as “a random patchwork of counsel” — Jay Sekulow, whose specialty is religious liberty cases rather than constitutional impeachment law; John Dowd, who was reported to have called Trump a “f—ing liar,” according to journalist Bob Woodward, something Dowd denies; and Rudy Giuliani, whose Ukraine antics form much of the basis of the president’s impeachment charges.
Conway then contrasts Trump’s defense team unfavorably with the legal firepower that then-President Bill Clinton brought on board to fight his own impeachment charges. He goes on to analyze what the addition of Dershowitz and Starr adds to the mix, and it’s not a particularly flattering portrayal.
“Dershowitz may be a genius in some ways, but he’s not necessarily the advocate you want on your side. Judges have told me they find him condescending in manner and tone — not the approach you want before a court consisting of 100 U.S. senators. And he’s wont to make off-the-wall arguments. As his former Harvard colleague Professor Laurence Tribe has put it, Dershowitz “revels in taking positions that ultimately are not just controversial but pretty close to indefensible.” Dershowitz’s recent assertion that the Supreme Court could order the Senate not to conduct an impeachment trial illustrates the point. Not only is that claim indefensible — it’s also ridiculous,” Conway says of the man who has worked defending Jeffrey Epstein, OJ Simpson, and Harvey Wenstein.
Of Kenneth Starr, Conway says he knows and likes the man, but “can’t comprehend what he’s doing here.” He compares the prosecution of Bill Clinton for lying about an extra-marital affair as “a trifle compared with extorting a foreign nation by cutting off federal military funds in an effort to interfere with an upcoming U.S. presidential election.”
Even more perplexing for Conway is how Starr will square his assertions in the Clinton impeachment trial with the defense of his new client.
“Starr argued that Clinton had committed an impeachable offense by blocking witness testimony and documents. Oops,” Mr. Conway points out.
Conway displays his years of experience as a high-powered legal representative in the conclusion to his op-ed that summarizes what he thinks of the president’s latest legal maneuvering.