Trump doesn't take anyone's advice but his own, and now it's coming back to bite him in the Russia probe

  • President Donald Trump is having trouble hiring new lawyers to represent him in the Russia probe, and experts say it's largely because Trump rarely follows anyone's advice and favors confrontational personalities.
  • Trump has "shown that he can turn on his staff and lawyers at any moment," said one former federal prosecutor. "It is hard to have confidence that you could represent Trump effectively under those circumstances."
  • Trump said over the weekend that "many lawyers and top law firms" want to represent him, and not to believe the "fake news narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on."

President Donald Trump is having a tough time finding new lawyers to represent him in the ongoing Russia investigation, and it may be because of his own doing.

The turmoil started when Trump lost his top defense attorney last week. A source familiar with the matter told Business Insider that the lawyer, John Dowd, resigned in part because he was frustrated that Trump was not following his advice in declining an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Dowd, the primary conduit between the president and Mueller, was the member of Trump's legal team most vocally opposed to a face-to-face interview between the special counsel and his client, who has a history of making misleading and exaggerated claims.

28 PHOTOS
Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
See Gallery
Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
Hope Hicks: Former White House Director of Strategic Communications
Melania Trump: Wife to President Trump and first lady of the United States
Gary Cohn: Former Director of the U.S. National Economic Council
Michael Flynn: Former National Security Advisor, no longer with the Trump administration
Ivanka Trump: First daughter and presidential adviser
Gen. John Kelly: Former Secretary of Homeland Security, current White House chief of staff
Steve Bannon: Former White House chief strategist, no longer with the Trump administration
Jared Kushner: Son-in-law and senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway: Former Trump campaign manager, current counselor to the president
Reince Priebus: Former White House chief of staff, no longer with the Trump administration
Anthony Scaramucci: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House press secretary
Donald Trump Jr.: First son to President Trump
Sean Spicer: Former White House press secretary, soon to be no longer with the Trump administration
Jeff Sessions: U.S. attorney general
Steve Mnuchin: Secretary of Treasury
Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign chairman
Carter Page: Former foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign
Omarosa Manigault: Former Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison
Jason Miller: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Mike Dubke: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Stephen Miller: Trump senior policy adviser
Corey Lewandowski: Former Trump campaign manager
Eric Trump: Son to President Trump
Rex Tillerson: Former Secretary of State
Sebastian Gorka: Former deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration, no longer in his White House role
Roger Stone: Former Trump campaign adviser, current host of Stone Cold Truth
Betsy DeVos: U.S. Education Secretary
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Dowd's position put him at odds with White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who has largely advocated for a more cooperative approach toward the investigation. It also led to some friction with the president, who has reportedly been "champing at the bit" to an interview with Mueller.

That friction is likely a big part of why the president is having trouble hiring a new defense attorney to add to his rapidly shrinking team.

"Lawyers who might ordinarily [represent him] are unwilling because they see that Trump is unprepared to listen to the advice of his lawyers," said Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School.

He added that Trump has "shown that he can turn on his staff and lawyers at any moment. It is hard to have confidence that you could represent Trump effectively under those circumstances."

The president tweeted over the weekend that "many lawyers and top law firms" want to represent him, and not to believe the "fake news narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on. Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted."

He said the real issue was that bringing on a new lawyer or firm "will take months to get up to speed (if for no other reason than they can bill more), which is unfair to our great country ... Besides, there was NO COLLUSION with Russia, except by Crooked Hillary and the Dems!"

Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who has worked with members of Mueller's team, threw cold water on Trump's suggestion that lawyers would represent him to attain fame and fortune.

"If you are at a level he'd want, you already have a good reputation and probably a well-paying practice," Cotter said. "So you don't need the fame and you don't need the money. And the risk of hurting both your reputation and your practice ... seems large."

Some legal experts pointed out that Trump's problem may not rest on an inability to find new defense lawyers.

"The bigger issue is Trump's decision process," said Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School. "He likes people who act like aggressive advocates on the public stage. And he also wants people who 'click' with him personally. But neither of those criteria are useful for picking a high-powered defense team."

14 PHOTOS
Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
See Gallery
Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
June 7: The 2016 primary season essentially concludes, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominees
June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
June 9: Trump tweets about Clinton's missing 33,000 emails
July 18: Washington Post reports, on the first day of the GOP convention, that the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform to ensure that it didn't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces
July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination
July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee
July 25: Democratic convention begins
July 27: In final news conference of his 2016 campaign, Trump asks Russia: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"
August 4: Obama CIA Director John Brennan confronts his Russian counterpart about Russia's interference. "[I] told him if you go down this road, it's going to have serious consequences, not only for the bilateral relationship, but for our ability to work with Russia on any issue, because it is an assault on our democracy," Brennan said on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
October 4: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange says his organization will publish emails related to the 2016 campaign
October 7: WikiLeaks begins releasing Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails
October 7: Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence release a statement directly saying that Russia is interfering in the 2016 election
October 31: "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Trump says on the campaign trail
November 4: "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Trump says from Ohio.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Lawyers avoiding the 'chaos' and 'confusion'

On Monday, attorneys Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb of the law firm Winston & Strawn declined Trump's invitation to join his team, citing "business conflicts."

Joseph diGenova, an attorney who Trump defense lawyer Jay Sekulow indicated they would hire, also had to back out, partly because he and his wife and law-firm partner, Victoria Toensing, currently represent other parties involved in the Russia investigation.

Theodore Olsen, a high-powered GOP lawyer and the former solicitor-general under President George W. Bush, also turned down Trump's offer to represent him, saying there was too much "chaos" and "confusion" on the legal team for it to be effective.

Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in white-collar crime, said as much during an interview last week.

"Ideally, a team settles on a single strategy and then executes that strategy with their whole team pulling as one," Zeidenberg said. "That is the opposite of what is happening here, where you have the confrontational strategy and the cooperation strategy on the same team."

Whiting noted that other factors may be at play in Trump's apparent difficulty in hiring new lawyers to represent him — some lawyers may feel antipathy toward Trump, others may have conflicts of interest, and some may fear representing Trump could hurt their business in the long run.

Whatever the case, Cotter said Dowd's exit last week is a sign that now is not "a good time to join Trump's legal squad."

"The problem is not so much the lawyers as the prospective client," Cotter said. "I can see a lot of attorneys wondering if they want to jump on what seems at times to be an out of control merry-go-round."

NOW WATCH: Here's why the death penalty and longer prison sentences don't really deter crime

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Mueller just scored a massive win in the Russia investigation

DON'T MISS: Trump backtracks, decides not to hire 2 controversial lawyers to represent him in the Russia probe

Read Full Story