Most of the lawyers who helped the former president to avoid impeachment and the charges against them, caused their own legal problems.
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A dark joke began to circulate among lawyers following the many legal travails of former President Donald J. Trump: MAGA actually stands for “making lawyers get lawyers.”
More than six years into nine major investigations by Congress, the Justice Department and domestic prosecutors, while Mr. Trump has managed to avoid impeachment and impeachment, he said in It’s clear that acting as one of his lawyers is a very dangerous job – and one that can involve significant legal exposure. Time after time, his lawyers are asked to testify as potential criminal witnesses – or to be identified as criminals themselves.
While the consequences for his lawyers were extraordinary when Mr. Trump was in the White House, the risk has worsened since he left office and has intensified in recent weeks, as the former president has faced investigation into two Department of Justice investigations. and he was again forced to find lawyers to represent him.
Last week, a Justice Department document revealed that Mr. Trump’s lawyers misled federal investigators about whether he had turned over to the Justice Department any classified information he received from the White House. House when he left office. That raised questions about whether the lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb, could be prosecuted and forced to testify against their client. (Ms. Bobb recently retained an attorney, according to a person familiar with the matter.)
The revelations come this summer as the legal team advising Mr. Trump as he seeks to overturn the 2020 election has faced a barrage of repercussions across the country from federal investigators, domestic prosecutors, state attorneys general. states and government control organizations.
One of Mr. Trump’s top lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been named as a target in an investigation conducted in the state of Georgia. Conservative attorney John Eastman, who has come up with what he privately admits was a botched ploy to help Mr. Trump overturn the election, said he believes the same investigation He was attacked and refused to answer questions when he was charged before the grand jury. . Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Eastman have also been named as persons of interest in a federal grand jury that is seeking testimony about efforts by Mr. Trump’s allies to create voter fraud to help him retain office. he.
Two of Mr. Trump’s White House staffers – White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone and his assistant Patrick F. Philbin – have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal court in Washington to investigate efforts to overturn the election. 2020, including Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Eastman’s role in helping Mr. Trump.
Mr. Cipollone, Mr. Philbin and at least nine other lawyers who worked for Mr. Trump testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Earlier this year, Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Philbin were also interviewed by the F.B.I. as a part of her research on intelligence research.
And 17 top attorneys who have represented Mr. Trump in conflict states as he tries to overturn the election face ethics complaints, putting them at risk of disciplinary action or dismissal. from the bar associations or the courts.
Strongly defending a client – even one known for bad behavior or suspected of a serious crime – is part of a lawyer’s true job description. But lawyers are bound by a code of professional conduct that prohibits them from crossing certain lines, including knowingly making false claims, filing complaints or lawsuits, and doing anything to aggravate a crime.
The thing about lawyers who defend criminal suspects, said Fritz Scheller, a longtime Florida attorney, is that at the end of the day, no matter how bad things are for the accused, the lawyer keeps going. . the door of the court without any legal problems.
“A bad day for a criminal defense attorney turned into his worst day when he walked out the door of the courthouse used for defendants on their way to prison,” Mr. Scheller said.
What to Know About the Trump Investigations
Lots of questions. Since former President Donald J. Trump left office, he has been facing numerous civil and criminal investigations into his business and political activities. To see also : BrewDog loses IP battle over tiger gin. Here’s a look at some notable cases:
Georgia election interference case. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta district attorney, has been leading a criminal investigation into the efforts of Mr. Trump and his associates to derail the 2020 election in Georgia. This case could create immediate legal danger for the former president and his associates.
New York State Civil Survey. Letitia James, the chief prosecutor in New York City, is conducting a civil investigation against Mr. Trump and his family business. The case is focused on whether Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his property were part of a fraud or just an act of prejudice.
Even before he became president, Mr. Trump viewed lawyers as a tool to carry out any unpleasant task he needed. As the president, the lack of confidence in the rules of the authorities and the need to distrust each other made Mr. Trump expects White House lawyers to act in his personal interests, whether doing so is within the bounds of the law or in the national interest.
He is also known for refusing to pay his lawyers for their work; Last year, the Republican National Committee agreed to settle up to $1.6 million in Mr. Trump.
Six weeks after taking office, Mr. Trump made it clear to his aides what he expected from his lawyers, when he was furious with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself from the investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
“I don’t have a lawyer,” Mr. Trump told aides in the Oval Office, including White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
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Mr. Trump was referring to a prominent New York realtor who represented and advised Mr. Trump in the 1970s when he was a booming real estate investor. Mr. Cohn, who was the lead attorney for Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings against alleged communists, was dismissed by a New York court in 1986 for misconduct.
Mr. Trump’s search for such a lawyer has created a spiral: As legal problems mount, he hires more lawyers, who in turn face problems in their work on his behalf, leading to established lawyers who are concerned about their reputations. to protest his representation.
Kimberly Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, who has followed the investigation into the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, said, “There is no way to honor your dignity. and continue your work.” lawyers faced. “There is no way to avoid conflict.”
The secretive nature of Mr. Trump’s legal practice became painful for lawyers close to him four months into his administration when Mr. McGahn and several of his aides — fearing they could be held responsible for Mr. Trump’s behavior — they hold great power. The Washington lawyer who will stand up for them in the investigation of whether the president has obstructed justice.
In two years, Mr. McGahn has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and prosecutors have turned him into a key witness against Mr. Trump.
At the same time, Mr. Trump’s longtime New York lawyer, Michael Cohen, began a three-year prison sentence for his role in paying a woman in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign to secure that she does not reveal any relationship with Mr. .Trump.
Recently, a list of lawyers who have represented Mr. Trump have found themselves on the receiving end of ethics complaints and disciplinary action.
“Ultimately, we want to show all the lawyers that the next time Sidney Powell or Rudy Giuliani calls and says, ‘Hey, are you going to sign your name to this,’ they’re going to say ‘no,’ because they will understand. that there are professional consequences,” said Michael Teter, director of the 65 program, which has filed lawsuits against 40 attorneys involved in lawsuits challenging the 2020 results, including 17 last month .
The group of Mr. Teter has identified more than 110 attorneys in 26 states who agreed to participate in a conspiracy by Mr. Trump and his allies in their efforts to throw off the 2020 election. So far, at least 10 of them have been fined or and they were punished.
“This is part of an ongoing effort to target any attorney involved in any 2020 election challenge,” Mr. Eastman said in a statement in response to the lawsuit. adding that the purpose of the 65 Project. is “embarrassing them and making them toxic in their communities and companies.”
The worst results came for the four lawyers who served as the leaders of the effort. Mr. Giuliani’s license to practice law in the District of Columbia and New York was suspended, while Ms. Powell was sanctioned in Detroit and faced disciplinary action brought by the Texas state attorney general. Both are also facing separate lawsuits from Dominion, a voting machine company that claims the two were negligent in ensuring that Dominion’s machines helped sway the vote. u from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden. Each court is seeking damages in excess of $1 billion.
Lin Wood is under investigation by the bar association in his home state of Georgia and has been sanctioned in Michigan. Mr. Eastman, who said he could be a target of the Georgia investigation, could face more legal danger; Federal agents seized his phone, and a federal judge said in March that he and Mr. Trump committed crimes while trying to sway the 2020 election.
Among the 40 lawyers and Mr. Teter singled out for ethics complaints James Bopp, Kenneth Chesebro, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, Joseph diGenova, Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn, Cleta Mitchell and William Olson.
The House investigation conducted on January 6 also focused on possible wrongdoing by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, especially their role in the plan to present a list of voters who support Trump in states where Joseph R. Biden Jr won.
Mr. Giuliani also faces a federal investigation in New York by prosecutors who are said to be looking into his actions in Ukraine to help Mr. Trump dig up dirt on Mr. Trump’s son. Biden. As part of that investigation, federal agents seized cellphones and computers from Mr. Giuliani in April during searches of his Madison Avenue home and Park Avenue office in Manhattan. The investigation cannot lead to suspicion.
Mrs. Powell’s nonprofit group, Defending the Republic, which raised millions of dollars by spreading lies about election fraud, is being investigated by a federal grand jury in Washington, according to two people with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Ms. was also charged. Ellis and professional misconduct in an ethics complaint in Colorado by the US judicial watchdog group United Democracy Center. He said Ms. Ellis helped Mr. Trump in his “unsuccessful and potentially criminal effort” to stave off defeat in the election.
Some lawyers who did Mr. Trump work managed to come out with their work, including Emmet T. Flood, who led the White House in charge of the Russian investigation, and two other lawyers who represented the president at that time: Jane. Raskin and Joanna C. Hendon.
Now two of them are among the lawyers that Mr. Trump’s former lawyers are hiring to stand up for them while they deal with the deterioration of their work for Mr. Trump.
Mr. Flood is now representing Mr. Cipollone, the former White House counsel, who is facing questions from federal investigators about Mr. Trump’s conduct. And Ms. Raskin is helping to represent Ms. Ellis.
Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.