Trump’s lawyers — yes, including Rudy Giuliani — have …


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By Suzanne Garment, author of “Scandal: The Culture of Mistrust in American Politics”

Here’s the problem with being a defense lawyer: It’s hard — not impossible, but hard — to be better than your client.

It now looks like Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is again out on his accustomed limb. A recent BuzzFeed story alleged that President Donald Trump directed his fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about when negotiations for a Moscow Trump tower ended. Giuliani leaped to the president’s defense, claiming he was “100 percent certain” that Trump hadn’t told Cohen to lie.

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On the other hand, according to the timeline that Giuliani has variously presented in numerous TV interviews, those negotiations persisted until the November election — longer than Trump has ever admitted. This is also well past the point at which Trump began expounding his pro-Russia foreign policy. Giuliani is now walking it back, saying his comments were just “hypothetical.” New explanations, new legal exposure.

Let’s observe a moment of silence for poor Giuliani — and for the 17 other lawyers the White House reportedly recently hired to defend Trump against the coming onslaught.

At the end of January, longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone was indicted and arrested. Once again, Giuliani is the first Trump defender out of the box. “Another false statement case? God almighty,” Giuliani said, according to the Washington Post. He seemed marginally chastened though. “They do have some false statements,” he allowed. “You shouldn’t do that.” Then, he rallied, insisting, “The president is safe.”

Let’s observe a moment of silence for poor Giuliani — and for the 17 other lawyers the White House reportedly recently hired to defend Trump against the coming onslaught from the special counsel and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

True, some people will find these attorneys hard to feel sorry for. But they are going to run into many, many troubles, general and specific. In extreme scenarios, all kinds of clients can ask lawyers to do all kinds of illegal things — which, if the lawyers are at all sane, they won’t. Clients can also plan to perjure themselves and ask their lawyers to help them do it. Which the lawyers won’t if they are even minimally self-protective.

More commonly, clients will supply their lawyers with accounts of what the clients did and did not do in the case at hand — and the lawyers will know or suspect that the clients aren’t telling the truth.

Why? A defendant may think he or she is smarter than the lawyer and can pull the wool over the lawyer’s eyes. Or, said defendant may be madly, truly, deeply in denial. Or, a defendant may be under instructions from someone else or may be just plain afraid.

To get a reasonably accurate story out of a client like this, a lawyer may use a variety of tools — blandishments, guile, invocations of authority, appeals to the fear of God. Whatever works. In one case I know, a lawyer had a client who was working for a foreign government. The client had no intention of spilling the beans to anyone — including his lawyer — though keeping quiet was going to mean even deeper trouble. In fact, he was avoiding situations in which he’d be totally alone with the lawyer.

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