Given the seriousness of the Russia scandal, Donald Trump had little choice but to hire outside legal representation, but that wasn’t exactly an easy task. Yahoo News reported this week that top attorneys with “at least four major law firms rebuffed White House overtures” to represent the president – some because Trump has a habit of not paying his bills, while others feared their client would ignore their legal advice.
The result left Trump with Marc Kasowitz, a civil litigator with no background in constitutional cases, who represented the president in a variety of lawsuits, including the fraud allegations surrounding Trump University.Is Kasowitz the best person for the job? Perhaps not. Rachel noted on the show last night that the president’s outside counsel had a difficult day – he made a specific claim about the timeline surrounding FBI Director James Comey’s memos, which turned out to be completely wrong – and today doesn’t appear to be going any better.
President Donald Trump’s outside counsel will file a leak complaint regarding former FBI Director James Comey’s leaked memos with the Department of Justice, a source close to the outside legal team tells NBC News.
Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz will file the complaint with the DOJ’s Inspector General and the Senate Judiciary Committee after Comey testified Thursday that he allowed a personal friend to leak an unclassified memo of his conversations with the president to news outlets in hopes it would trigger the appointment of a special counsel.
Kasowitz’s intentions come against a backdrop in which the president himself said via Twitter this morning, “WOW, Comey is a leaker!”
This is all a bit silly.
While we’re not generally accustomed to hearing prominent public figures talk openly about sharing behind-the-scenes information with the press, Comey’s acknowledgement yesterday that he shared a memo with a friend, who in turn shared it with a reporter, is not scandalous. After all, at the time, Comey was a private citizen, sharing an unclassified memo he wrote.
Sharing highly sensitive, classified intelligence with Russia in a private meeting is problematic. Comey’s “leak” was not.
Indeed, Kasowitz’s plan to go after Comey by way of the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s office is itself more troubling than Comey’s actions. First, the IG’s office isn’t equipped to launch investigations into private citizens. And second, as Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyer in the Bush/Cheney administration, noted this morning, trying to get the Justice Department to target a material witness – in this case, the former director of the FBI – only adds to the concerns about Team Trump trying to obstruct justice.
Norm Eisen, the top ethics lawyer in the Obama administration, added that Kasowitz’s plan represents an “abuse of power” for which there may be “serious consequences.”
I can appreciate Kasowitz’s broader strategy. Much of the legal controversy surrounding Trump – including whether he obstructed justice – relates to Comey and the conversations he had with the president. It stands to reason Trump’s outside counsel would take steps to undermine the former FBI director’s credibility.
But whether Kasowitz realizes it or not, the only person whose credibility he’s hurting right now is his own.