Donald Trump’s legal team is trying to instill discipline on a West Wing not known for its discipline.
The lawyers, people familiar with the internal discussions say, are reminding White House aides and the president that the stakes are higher now that a special counsel and Congress are scrutinizing their every move, that small indiscretions could turn into bigger issues, and that they have to follow rules they don’t like.
Trump’s legal team is attempting to separate the president from Donald Trump Jr. and the son’s legal team on Russia matters, as well from Jared Kushner and his legal team, over concerns that the blurred lines could create unnecessary problems, according to these sources. They have tried to block Trump’s warring band of aides from joining meetings with his lawyers, warning that they could become witnesses or be forced to hire lawyers if they attend.
Similar to his freewheeling governing style, Trump wants many people in the room for meetings and will sometimes ask lawyers for advice about people they do not represent, two West Wing aides said. At the same time, most West Wing aides don’t have lawyers yet and have sometimes asked lawyers not representing them for guidance.
The Russia investigations have occupied a large chunk of the White House’s time in recent months, and the extent to which the president and his aides follow the recommendations of their lawyers could determine how bad the fallout is inside the West Wing.
“These are people who have never been in government,” said Matt Schlapp, a conservative activist close to the White House who worked for George W. Bush. “It’s actually kind of unnerving to be in a White House when it’s being investigated by special counsel.”
White House aides are realizing “this is not what you signed up for and that much of your day gets taken up,” Schlapp said. “These people came to work for a president they really believe in and to get their agenda done.”
The legal team managed to meet with Trump on Tuesday without the aides who are often by his side. Chief attorney Marc Kasowitz was not present in the meeting, according to one West Wing official and one person close to the legal team.
The lawyers — particularly Kasowitz — have been taken aback by the infighting in the West Wing, people familiar with their thinking say. And they have been frustrated that they often learn about big developments just before they happen, as they did on Saturday with the New York Times story on Trump Jr.’s meeting with a person he believed to be a Russian government attorney.
Trump’s lawyers had no idea the story was posting until that afternoon — and learned of the president’s role in crafting Donald Jr.’s first statement on Air Force One only after a subsequent piece was published on Tuesday posted. They have also grown irritated with his tweets, several people familiar with the dynamics said.
SOURCE: JOSH DAWSEY