After a Saturday New York Times story revealed what appears to be the first meeting between the campaign for President Donald Trump and Russians, Donald Trump Jr. strangely confirmed the report on Twitter. President Trump’s attorneys swear they had no idea.
The strategy isn’t exactly one an experienced attorney would advise, according to Betsy Woodruff, writing for the Daily Beast. In fact, a good lawyer would do whatever it took to ensure the client keeps his mouth shut. Even former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter explained the admission should “have them in custody by now.“
“He’s stupid for saying what he said about why he took the meeting,” said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who works as a criminal defense attorney. According to him, the move wasn’t a smart one.
“It’s very hard for me to believe that any lawyer would advise him to make a public statement containing factual assertions about what happened in a meeting with an agent of the Russian government,” Mariotti continued. “What’s more likely is that Donald Trump Jr. spoke without consulting legal counsel.”
The move to serve as his own spokesperson wasn’t a clever method either, New York criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield echoed. On these occasions, the attorney typically answers the questions to protect the client. An excellent example would be retired Lt. General Michael Flynn and senior White House aide Jared Kushner, who haven’t said a word. Trump Jr. and his “one-man legal team” are putting all of their cards on the table.
In that case, former Obama official Ron Klain wondered if this meant that Trump Jr. is being set up as a patsy to deflect from Kushner.
“Perhaps this story was put out and hung on Donald Trump’s son to move it away from Donald Trump’s son-in-law, who definitely has more legal exposure, who is right in the heart of the White House, who’s in the middle of all these policy matters, who played a role in firing FBI Director [James] Comey, who supposedly is one of the people who advised the president to fire Director Comey, who has been threatening your colleagues here at MSNBC with bad stories and all these things,” Klain told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Monday.
Regardless, Mariotti explained the strategy to have only Alan Futerfas as his attorney is not the best move Trump Jr. has made thus far. Futerfas isn’t even admitted to the Washington, D.C. bar and his legal practice consists of three lawyers.
“This is a case that could be very complex and could involve rarely charged statutes and factual situations that are unprecedented,” Mariotti told Woodruff. “If Bob Mueller is going to have dozens of lawyers and investigators on his side, if I were the subject of his inquiry, I would want to have more than one person on my side.”
Monday, Trump Jr. tweeted that he was happy and eager to “work with” the Senate Intelligence Committee for their investigation into Russia. Not a move any defense attorney would advise.
“A good lawyer would have advised him to stop talking, stop tweeting, stop giving comments of any type or description until we have a firm grasp of what all the facts are,” Greenfield advised. “Regardless of anything, you don’t go shooting off your mouth until you have a clear idea of what’s at stake.”
He went on to say that it seems Trump Jr. doesn’t intend to follow legal instruction.
“It seems remarkably typical of what is coming out of the administration, from a legal viewpoint. It’s insanely asinine,” he said.
Mariotti explained that typically lawyers dive through their client’s communications before committing to working with investigators, which takes a few days at least. Trump Jr. revealed his intentions within hours of the request to testify.
The lawyers urged Trump Jr. to follow Kushner’s lead. Don’t tweet. Don’t make public statements. Don’t talk to the media. Still, Trump Jr. lawyering up might not save him from the Twitter damage over the past several days.