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Why lawyers don't want to represent Trump

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted: "Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case...don’t believe the Fake News narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on. Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted."

Reality check: Trump's legal team is down to two core lawyers, including his personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, who works from outside of the White House with a team of helpers, and Ty Cobb, who works from inside the White House and represents the institution as well as the president. Top Washington lawyers, including Ted Olson and Emmet Flood, have reportedly declined to join Trump's legal team.

Why Trump struggles to find top legal talent:

  • He has a reputation within the legal community for being tightfisted and reluctant to pay bills. 
  • He's impetuous. He tweets prolifically and loosely, often ignoring his lawyers' advice. 
  • Top white shoe law firms in Washington don't need the publicity nearly so much as Trump claims. Contrary to Trump's tweet, many are quite happy to turn down the "fame" associated with representing him. Representing Trump can easily bring the wrong type of publicity.
  • Some of these firms have conflicts of interest — meaning they have clients whose interests may not align with Trump's. That's the stated reason, for example, why Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing ultimately didn't join the president’s special counsel legal team. Toensing has been representing Mark Corallo, who represented Trump’s legal team in 2017 before leaving acrimoniously.
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