Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Trump is toxic

While it is true that any modern human rights violator who looted the treasury of his country can easily find a lawyer in D.C., Atrios is missing one key point.

I'm sure, for example, Robert Mugabe had an American lawyer while was alive. But I have no idea who he was or what firm he was with. Representation of human rights abusers is often public in the sense that anyone who looks around could find out who the lawyer is, but that information does not get heavily reported and certainly is not widely-known. The firms who represent such people don't have their reputation harmed by taking those cases because no one is making a stink about them and their other clients don't care about tin-pot human rights abusers.

That is not the case with Donald Trump. Anyone who represents him will be in the national news, as will that person's firm. For example, on January 11, 2017 (before he took office), Trump held a press conference with one of his lawyers, Sheri Dillon, a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, to discuss how he would address concerns about the emoluments clause. The press conference was national news, which put his attorney in the national spotlight. Sheri Dillon was mocked in a Saturday Night Live sketch. Morgan Lewis itself became associated both with the President in general and his corruption in particular. The firm lost clients because of its representation of Donald Trump and its reputation within the legal community took a big hit.

Morgan Lewis was founded in Philadelphia and it is a big firm here. In the past year, I have been at continuing legal education seminars in Philadelphia where there have been Morgan Lewis jokes. Last year I had an arbitration case against a Morgan Lewis attorney (one from their labor and employment department who presumably has nothing to do with its representation of the president) and when he called I answered the phone with "hello, Mr. Counsel to the President!" The other attorney was not amused. I'm guessing he heard jokes like that before.

Anyway, my point is that while genocidal dictators have no problem finding Washington attorneys to represent them, the firms they hire are not risking their reputation or other losing other clients by representing the human rights abuser. Donald Trump's brand is more toxic. That certainly is causing at least part of Trump's difficulty in finding lawyers who will represent him.

UPDATE: Not exactly what I wrote above, but along the same lines.