U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement from the Roosevelt Room next to the empty chairs of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (L), D-New York, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R), D-California, after they cancelled their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 28, 2017.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone in Trump World gets great lawyers (except Trump)

Updated

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House official, has hired a highly successful lawyer with an excellent track record in high-profile cases – and as Rachel explained on last night’s show, the presidential adviser will probably put this top-shelf legal talent to good use.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/26/18, 9:09 PM ET

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Vice President Mike Pence has also hired a highly respected attorney. Steve Bannon has a real attorney. So does former White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus. Even former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is represented by a highly qualified lawyer.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who’s convinced that “many” major firms are eager to help defend him in the Russia scandal, but who’s nevertheless still struggling badly to find talented legal representation.

Two more high-power attorneys have had to turn down President Donald Trump. Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb confirmed to The Daily Beast that Trump reached out to them about representing him, and that they couldn’t do it.

“President Trump reached out to Dan Webb and Tom Buchanan to provide legal representation,” they said in a statement. “They were unable to take on the representation due to business conflicts. However they consider the opportunity to represent the President to be the highest honor and they sincerely regret that they cannot do so. They wish the president the best and believe he has excellent representation in Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow.”

Buchanan and Webb are hardly the first to reject the president’s overtures. CNN reported over the weekend that “at least four defense attorneys at major law firms” have been approached to join Trump’s legal defense team. The list includes former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, Emmet Flood, and Robert Bennett, none of whom has agreed to represent the president.

This comes against a backdrop in which the head of Trump’s legal team has resigned, and the president ended up rejecting the two newest additions to his defense team shortly after meeting them for the first time.

The team now appears to be led by one guy, Jay Sekulow, who has literally no background in this kind of legal work, who’s best known for leading a legal group created by a radical televangelist, and who oversees a highly dubious fundraising operation – all while hosting a right-wing radio show in which he routinely discusses the case.

Mother Jones’ David Corn reported yesterday on a chat he had with Ted Olson, who’s among the top-tier attorneys who’ve already turned Trump down.

So is Trump going to have trouble finding attorneys? Olson shrugged again. “Let me ask this a different way,” I said. “In the last few days has any lawyer come up to you and said, ‘I’m willing to work for Trump?’”

Without hesitation, Olson said, “No.” Not at all? “Not at all.”

Washington, I noted, is full of Republican lawyers who generally do not mind being in the middle of headline-generating scandals and earning a bit of notice. Olson laughed: “That’s right.” And not one of them had contacted him to say he or she was willing to sign up? “No,” he repeated.

Olson, a Republican former solicitor general, also appeared on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” yesterday and further reflected on the “turmoil” and “chaos” surrounding the president.

Maybe Trump can’t find good lawyers because top-shelf attorneys believe he’d be a terrible client. Perhaps it’s because they’re reluctant to work alongside the president’s existing team. Maybe major firms recognize Trump’s habit of refusing to pay his bills.

Whatever the reason, two facts now appear unavoidable. First, Trump’s legal difficulties are coming at a terrible time: as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation intensifies, the president has never needed a competent legal team more.

And second, when Trump brags that top attorneys are enthusiastic about joining his team, he appears to be lying.

Update: For those looking for one big list of lawyers who’ve rejected Trump’s offers, we now know of Olson, Webb, Buchanan, Flood, and Bennett. But if we revisit Yahoo News’ related reporting from June, we can also add Brendan Sullivan, Paul Clement, Mark Filip, Robert Giuffra, Reid Weingarten, and A.B. Culvahouse Jr. to the broader list of high-profile attorneys who’ve spurned the president’s overtures. The Washington Post had a similar article last May.

Donald Trump

Everyone in Trump World gets great lawyers (except Trump)

Updated