Politics Advisers Urge Trump to Hire an Outside Lawyer

20:22  18 may  2017
20:22  18 may  2017 Source:   The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — Several White House advisers and personal associates of President Trump have urged him to hire an experienced outside lawyer to help him deal with issues arising from a surging controversy over whether his campaign had ties to Russia, according to several people briefed on the conversations.

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The recommendations came even before a special counsel was named on Wednesday to lead the investigation into any collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials.

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Mr. Trump’s aides and allies were said to be especially concerned by the revelation that James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director fired by Mr. Trump, has contemporaneous, detailed memos reconstructing conversations with the president.

While the office of the president is represented by the White House counsel, presidents in the past have employed outside lawyers when their private actions were called into question.

Mr. Trump has signaled he is likely to hire a new lawyer, but has not yet made a decision, according to three people who have spoken with him. Aides to Mr. Trump did not immediately comment on his discussions.

Mr. Trump is said to recognize that he needs help beyond the White House counsel. But he is deeply cautious in selecting people he trusts, and he adds new people to his orbit slowly.

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He has a personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and a tax lawyer who worked on his business issues before he went into the White House, Sheri Dillon. Daniel Petrocelli, an alumnus of the O.J. Simpson civil trial, was the lawyer to whom Mr. Trump turned when he was dealing with a class-action fraud case against the defunct Trump University.

In conversations with allies inside and outside the White House, Mr. Trump, who rarely assumes blame for the crises he creates, has criticized his staff as serving him poorly. He has spared no one, including the White House counsel, according to two people who have had direct discussions with him.

Yet Mr. Trump’s senior aides recognize that they may have to be restrained in making significant changes after his coming foreign trip, as they had hoped to do. Two senior administration officials bluntly predicted that firing anyone would be difficult now.

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Many staff members describe an atmosphere of diminished morale in the White House, but they also insist that the news media frenzy surrounding daily disclosures about Mr. Trump is far out of proportion with reality.

One change that is likely to take place is a decrease in the number of on-camera White House press briefings, which sometimes have a circuslike atmosphere even as they have become must-watch television. Mr. Trump once enjoyed the spectacle, but aides see the briefings as having diminishing returns, especially with a newly-named special counsel weighing statements and potentially examining contradictions.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, is likely to take over much of the remaining on-camera portion of briefings, while Sean Spicer, the embattled press secretary, will remain on the team but will have a more focused messaging role. There are also efforts to focus on administration policy actions that are not simply responding to the latest controversy of the day.

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