Trump's Little-Known Lawyer on the Front Lines Against Mueller
(Bloomberg) -- Standing between Donald Trump and Robert Mueller is a little-known Florida lawyer who is leading high-stakes negotiations over whether the president will confront questioning from the special counsel’s investigators.
Jane Raskin who was hired by Trump in April, spent most of her career prosecuting mobsters and defending accused fraudsters, extortionists and other white-collar criminals. Now, she’s the lead negotiator facing Special Counsel Mueller’s team over terms for a presidential interview in the Russia probe.
In recent weeks, Raskin has gone back and forth with Mueller’s deputy, Jim Quarles, to try to break a stalemate over questions Trump may answer. She’s also the lead writer on a report Trump’s team is preparing to counter Mueller’s eventual findings and she’s responsible for much of the research shaping the president’s defense.
Her behind-the-scenes work contrasts with the role of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has become the combative public face for Trump’s assault on Mueller as he lobs conflicting information to different media outlets.
Raskin, a 1980 graduate of Boston College Law School, has worked to smooth over the rough edges to maintain a professional rapport with Mueller’s team and prevent talks from breaking down, a scenario that could lead Mueller to subpoena Trump, according to people familiar with her work. It’s a crucial role for a lawyer who isn’t a veteran of major Washington investigations, unlike those hired by many of the other high-profile figures pulled into the Mueller investigation or by past presidents beset by scandals.
Raskin declined to comment for this story.
She and her husband Marty, with whom she shares a law practice in Coral Gables, Florida, just outside Miami, took over much of the work of Trump’s first lawyer, John Dowd, after he abruptly quit in March. When Trump was unable to find another prominent Washington attorney willing or able to take his case, the Raskins were recommended by former White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who shared mutual friends and had known her since her days in Boston prosecuting mobsters.
"They are consummate professionals and have a compelling legal, intellectual, ethical and analytical approach," Cobb said in an interview.
While an unusual choice for the president, those who have worked with Raskin in white-collar crime circles say she is up for the task. She is known as high-energy, hard-working and humble. She and her husband largely avoid the flashy South Florida social scene that Trump inhabited for decades. Unlike some lawyers who farm out tasks to associates, the Raskins are known for doing the work themselves.
“They are trial lawyers. They are very familiar with how government works, how prosecutors strategize, how they build a case,” said Silvia Pinera-Vazquez, a former federal prosecutor and white collar criminal defense lawyer based in Miami, who worked with the Raskins to successfully defend an immigration officer accused of taking bribes. “They are strong believers, as I am, that everybody is entitled to an effective defense and it’s the cornerstone of our Constitution that we do that as well as we can.”
For years earlier in her career, Raskin worked at a Washington law firm with Quarles, her main interlocutor on Mueller’s team. There’s another personal connection: Marty Raskin has long known the father of another Mueller deputy, Andrew Goldstein, who’s working with Quarles to try to secure an interview with Trump.
She also shares personal history with Mueller himself. Both lawyers were prosecutors in Boston early in their careers -- Raskin tried organized crime and racketeering cases for the Justice Department while Mueller investigated financial fraud, terrorism and money laundering for the U.S. attorney’s office.
Back in 2014, when Trump was just toying with the idea of a presidential run, Raskin stood before a judge and argued that her client -- an elderly mother of a drug-addicted pharmacist -- was acting out of parental love when she committed Medicare fraud to keep her son’s Florida pharmacy chain afloat.
Later that year, she won the acquittal of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent accused of using his position to extort about $2 million from a Colombian company and $300,000 from drug traffickers in exchange for protection and other immigration benefits, in one instance allegedly threatening a former drug trafficker with deportation if he didn’t pay up.
In one of her most high-profile cases, she defended an airplane maintenance company convicted of playing a role in the crash of a ValuJet Airlines plane in the Everglades. The company, SabreTech, was found guilty of mishandling the transportation of oxygen generators that burst into flames soon after takeoff, killing 110 people in 1996. She argued that the company and its employees didn’t know how dangerous the containers were and that the mishandling wasn’t done willfully or to cut corners.
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While Trump’s other lawyer, Jay Sekulow, has mostly focused on constitutional issues raised by Mueller’s probe and Giuliani has handled the public relations battle, the Raskins have taken on much of the in-the-weeds lawyering needed to build a defense and manage the relationship with the special counsel’s team.
On issues of broad strategy, Giuliani, Sekulow and the Raskins work together, holding conference calls two or three times a week and meeting weekly in Washington at Sekulow’s office, Giuliani said. But when it comes to interacting with Mueller’s office, Raskin has taken the lead, Giuliani said. In media interviews, he will often refer questions to Raskin when asked about the details on talks with Mueller.
“She is a strong writer, thinker and strategist,” said Joe diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia who’s acted as an outside legal adviser to Trump.
She may find herself thrust further into the spotlight. If Raskin is unable to negotiate a compromise for a voluntary interview with the president, Mueller may issue a grand jury subpoena requiring Trump to answer wide-ranging questions under oath without lawyers by his side.
Trump’s lawyers have vowed to fight any subpoena, a battle that would likely go to the Supreme Court.
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