Trump-Mueller Interview Talks Continue After Lawyers Shuffled
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow is continuing talks with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office over a possible interview with the president after turmoil in his legal team risked upending its strategy.
Since the resignation last week of lawyer John Dowd, Sekulow has taken on negotiations with Mueller over the parameters of any questioning, said two people familiar with the process. Dowd was firmly opposed to having Trump sit for an interview with Mueller, while Sekulow has been more open to continuing negotiations before making a determination about whether one would take place, one of the people said.
While Dowd had taken the lead in communications with Mueller, Sekulow was involved in previous conversations and played a large role behind the scenes, allowing for a mostly seamless transition, said one of the people, who discussed legal strategy on condition of anonymity.
Sekulow has a background in constitutional law, which comes into play on fundamental issues such as executive privilege and the reach of presidential powers. But he isn’t seasoned in dealing with prosecutors and white-collar criminal investigators like those on Mueller’s team who would probably grill the president about Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it and whether Trump sought to obstruct the probe.
Legal advisers to Trump are continuing to search for another outside lawyer. But they aren’t expecting any additions in the coming days and it’s unlikely to be a high-profile name, said one of the people.
Trump, who has dismissed the collusion probe as a “witch hunt,” has been turned down by a string of well-known lawyers in recent weeks. Lawyer and former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova had to back out of an agreement to represent Trump last week over conflicts with other clients his firm represented. Former Solicitor General Ted Olson and former federal prosecutors Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb also turned down an offer because of conflicts.
To get help with the criminal side of the probe, longtime Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz and his partner Michael Bowe are expected to emerge from the background and play an expanded supporting role in the near-term. Sekulow said Wednesday that he will be relying more on Andrew Ekonomou, a former federal prosecutor and acting U.S. attorney from Atlanta, who’s been helping on the case and will now have a more prominent role.
The turmoil on Trump’s legal team started on March 19 with Trump’s abrupt decision to add diGenova after little consultation with advisers. The addition created friction with Dowd, who quit three days later. By the end of the week, Sekulow said diGenova wouldn’t be able to take on the case because his firm also represented several witnesses in the probe. Inside the White House, Trump has lawyer Ty Cobb to represent the office of the presidency, not Trump personally.
That left Sekulow as the last lawyer standing. Sekulow and his team of lawyers at his nonprofit American Center for Law and Justice will be taking the lead, and those close to the process said that should be enough manpower, at least for now.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.