The White House legal team has been in the news lately. This is because the media has focused on the President hiring veteran crisis-management attorney Ty Cobb, a relative of the late baseball legend, as well as the fifty-thousand-dollar retainer paid to Donald Trump Jr’s counsel before he posted Russia-related emails on Twitter.
To some, hiring an attorney, or “lawyering-up,” may be viewed as an admission of guilt, but hiring a lawyer isn’t an admission of anything. It’s evidence of a prudent and cautious individual. Hiring a lawyer doesn’t just mean protecting legal equities. Seeking counsel ensures that even seemingly non-legal decisions are made wisely. Poor decision making can, potentially, lead to problems down the road – legal or otherwise. Accordingly, it is important for federal employees not just to retain counsel, but to also listen to them. Moreover, if you have retained counsel, there’s no need to “act” as your own attorney.
Donald Trump Jr.’s activity is a cautionary tale. Yes, he hired expensive lawyers. However, his decision to release emails involving a meeting with Russians likely went contrary to the advice of his legal team. Not only could it be evidence of possible criminal activity, but it has resulted in former Intelligence Community leaders to point out that it, in fact, is evidence of an early Russian Intelligence Operation. The Twitter disclosure – which I’m sure his attorneys would have advised against – has the potential to harm him and others under investigation. With news reports further indicating that his father, the President, is disregarding the advice of counsel and is, instead, “acting” as his own attorney is not something to emulate.
The advice is simple: don’t just hire a lawyer – listen to them. That, and a legal strategy should never involve Twitter.