The whole country has been dragged into a presidential version of ‘L.A. Law’ or ‘The Good Wife.’ It’s all lawyers all the time in the Trump era.
Admit it, America: Didn’t you always want to live in a 24/7 reality TV show about lawyers? Maybe something called “Kill All the Lawyers.” Or “Bill All the lawyers.” Or “Fire All the Lawyers.” That’s three seasons right there.
Unfortunately, it’s not a reality show, it’s just … reality. Not only that, we’re paying for this production. And it’s expensive.
Many of us encounter lawyers rarely — to write wills, deal with estates, maybe get a divorce. President Donald Trump is different. He has never met a lawsuit he didn’t want to file or fight. And now, like it or not, we’re all part of his litigious world.
It feels like the whole country has been dragged into a presidential version of “L.A. Law” or “The Good Wife.” Everyone in these legal workplace dramas is suing, getting sued or both — when they’re not getting murdered. Not kidding. Unhappy clients killing their lawyers was a running plot line in the second season of “The Good Fight” on CBS All Access.
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To be fair, lawyers are not just a Trump thing or a Republican thing; they’re an American thing. Just look at the final weekend of 2018. Who topped The New York Times best-seller lists? John Grisham (lawyer) for fiction, Michelle Obama (lawyer) for nonfiction. Who went on the final Sunday talk shows of 2018? At least six lawyers: GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard Shelby, new House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. (The queen of spin is George Washington University Law School ’92.)
And how’s the job market these days for lawyers in Washington? Booming. House Democrats are about to embark on massive oversight and investigation of the Trump administration, up to and possibly including impeachment proceedings, when they take control of the chamber on Thursday. Not surprisingly, as CNN reports, they are on a lawyer hiring spree.
We should have known what we were getting into the minute the unthinkable happened on election night 2016. As a business mogul, Trump had tax lawyers and bankruptcy lawyers. He had lawyers defending him against contractors claiming they hadn’t been paid, Trump University students claiming they hadn’t been educated, and women claiming all manner of sexual misconduct.
Turns out that was all just a warmup for the main event. As a result of his former lawyer’s plea deal with federal prosecutors, Trump is now implicated in at least one crime, felony violation of campaign finance laws in paying off porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to keep quiet about sexual affairs with him.
And we’re now at the point where, as many have noted, pretty much everything Trump is under investigation by one or more legal authorities — his business, his foundation, his campaign, his inauguration, his presidency, his family and Trump himself. As of Saturday, we can add Trump’s golf club in New Jersey — now being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI and the state on federal immigration crimes, according to the New York Daily News.
The legal frenzy is relentless. Consider all that happened on Friday, Aug. 10:
►Two lawyers for the president — Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow — guest-hosted Sean Hannity’s radio show and used the venue to trash Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties as “illegitimate,” “corrupt,” a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”
►Government lawyers said former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort used a secret offshore bank account to pay for “luxury season tickets” to the New York Yankees.
►They also said a bank CEO gave Manafort an expedited $16 million loan after he floated the possibility of Trump campaign and administration roles.
►And Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, said he might run for president and gave a political speech that wasn’t half bad.
A domestic violence complaint and other problems brought the Avenatti dream crashing to earth, but not before he had spent months in the spotlight and people were seriously discussing the pros and cons of a President Avenatti. He was an attorney with a porn-star client and a big mouth — in other words, a bona fide contender in the age of Trump.
The legal morass goes well beyond Mueller and his investigation. Blatant violations of norms, laws and ethics rules have prompted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to file 30 complaints against Trump, his administration and his allies. The subjects include conflicts of interest, self-dealing, financial disclosure lapses, security clearance lapses, destruction of government records, and using government positions to promote political views and first-family businesses.
We might not have realized, although we should have, that Trump and his allies would tie up courts all over the country with policies that may or may not be legal: The travel ban that took several revisions and many months to convince courts that it wasn’t about blocking Muslims. Clean-air and emissions standards rollbacks. Several rounds on whether Trump could end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young immigrants brought illegally to this country by their parents. A new court fight over asylum rules. And the nonstop conservative struggle to kill off the 2010 Affordable Care Act — now likely headed for the Supreme Court.
If 2018 was the Year of the Lawyer, 2019 will be the Year of Even More Lawyers. Lawyers attacking, defending and maybe impeaching Trump; lawyers turning on Trump; lawyers turning on other lawyers. We’re talking farce and betrayal, rises and falls, comedy and tragedy. Let’s hope it reaches the level of Shakespeare, or at least “The Good Wife.” We ought to get decent entertainment for our tax dollars.
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