Some of America's top law firms don't want Donald Trump as a client

According to law firms that may represent him, Donald Trump probably won't listen to advice — and may not pay them

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 6, 2017 1:29PM (EDT)

 (Reuters/Mike Carlson)
(Reuters/Mike Carlson)

One would think that, given President Donald Trump's increasing need for quality legal assistance in a high-profile scandal, lawyers would be beating down the door to represent him.

But a new report suggests that Trump is having trouble finding lawyers willing to work for his defense.

[salon_video id="14776164"]

Lawyers from at least four major firms — including former Bush solicitor generals Ted Olson, who argued against Proposition 8 in California, and Paul Clement — have turned down White House requests for legal assistance, according to a report by Yahoo News. The "politely declined" list also includes Mark Filip, a former Bush deputy attorney general, and Brendan Sullivan, who represented Oliver North during Iran-Contra hearings.

One of the most common reasons cited was the belief that Trump would not accept his lawyers' advice and could send out tweets or other public utterances that would undercut his legal teams' efforts.

While the article didn't mention this as an example, the concern does draw to mind observations like that of George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley, who has noted that Trump's tweets might hurt his lawyers' case when arguing in support of his so-called travel ban.

"The worst aspect of the tweet is that it plays directly into the hands of those challenging his order,"  Turley noted about Trump's Monday morning tweetstorm, adding that "it must be incredibly frustrating for his counsel who have insisted that his references to a 'Muslim ban' during the campaign are immaterial to the executive order. It does not alter the core of the legal arguments, which I have long stated favor Trump. However, his reference to a ban (which the order is not) undermines the thrust of the arguments raised in courts across the country."

Lawyers are also concerned that Trump may not listen to their advice or pay them for their time, Yahoo reported. There are also concerns that representing Trump may pose conflicts with some of the firms' other clients, or that representing Trump will take up more time than they realistically have. Finally, as one lawyer with knowledge of some of the discussions said, there were concerns that being associated with Trump could hurt their reputations: "Do I want to be associated with this president and his policies?"

The lawyers mentioned in these capacities include Paul Clement and Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis; Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell; Ted Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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