President Donald Trump probably doesn’t think he has had an adequate spokesperson since the days of “John Miller.” But his legal team — composed of very real and accomplished people — seems to be coming together nicely. No matter how Democrats try to spin it, there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And if Trump would quit talking about it, it would be that much easier for his lawyers and allies to substantiate the fact that there was also no obstruction of justice.
Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz has a deep, personal relationship with the president. The legal team also consists of John Dowd, a savvy, big-league professional who knows how to work in Washington and represent clients in high-profile cases, as well as Jay Sekulow, a reassuring television presence who can help keep conservative constituencies by Trump’s side over the next several months.
Allowing for first-time jitters, Sekulow seems to be hitting mostly the right tone. He is no Lanny Davis — the infamous special counsel who defended President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky days — but then again, Sekulow’s client is innocent. He should have the easier job.
Anyway, an important component of Trump’s legal strategy is to maintain message discipline. But message discipline and restraint is not Trump’s specialty. Assuming no one can rein in Trump’s tweets, it will be up to his legal team to stick to the facts, remain surefooted, defend against the left’s most egregious attacks and clean up after material leaks — all the while avoiding the temptation to take the bait and engage with the media in day-to-day combat.
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There is such a thing as having too many lawyers. But this team seems to be about the right size and have the right mix of relationships and skills. What remains to be seen is whether Trump will make their lives easier or more difficult.
So, what does Trump really need from his legal team? I hope he wants the same things that he needs. Specifically, he needs to ride out the reported investigation into possible obstruction of justice and put any suggestion of collusion behind him. But Trump, being Trump, will likely want to have a knife fight in which his enemies, imagined or real, are dispatched in a dramatic fashion. It will be up to his lawyers to not indulge him in this fantasy. Even though Trump is innocent, with reckless words and deceitful tweets, he could sink his presidency into the quicksand of high crimes and misdemeanors that could change the course of history.
Trump’s lawyers must walk a delicate line, coordinating every word they say. We no longer live in a world where lawyers have the luxury of ignoring the media. There are simply too many outlets with too large an appetite for content.
When Haley Barbour and I started our firm as a law firm more than 25 years ago, the media strategy we recommended to our clients was always simple. Hide from the media. But now, as a lobbying/PR firm, we have a great deal of client matters that involve multiple law firms and constant media management.
One truism I have learned over the years is that clients never tell you everything and they often do not act how you want them to. From here, Trump looks just like that kind of client — times 10.
As a client, Trump will likely keep his legal team off balance and unsure of what will happen next. He can help his case at one moment and just as easily harm it at another.
There is no chance Trump will miraculously change his ways. His legal team will have to practice extraordinary patience and skill.
Republicans everywhere are counting on Trump’s legal team to come through. If it doesn’t, the consequences of failure could set back the party for decades.
Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.