Trump Is Building One Of The Most Combative Legal Teams Of Recent History

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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President Donald Trump is assembling a pugnacious team of lawyers to represent him in the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, selecting high stakes litigators who share his tough, brash style.

Veteran litigators Marc Kasowitz and John Dowd are leading the president’s team, as well as the ACLJ’s Jay Sekulow, who appears to be the television face of the Trump defense.

Kasowitz, who combines bombast with procedural sucker punches, cuts a ruthless figure. Not unlike his current boss, Kasowitz is a scrappy Wall Street infighter who has never quite found a place among Manhattan’s elite. He practice from his perch at Kasowitz Benson & Torres, a commercial litigation shop which — in Trumpian fashion — boasts of its “aggressive legal strategies.” The Washington Post reports he has represented Trump in real estate deals, divorce proceedings, and litigation related to Trump University. He also represents former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly in the ongoing legal controversies surrounding his alleged harassment of women.

The president also added John Dowd to his team Friday. Dowd’s hiring brings much needed seasoning to a defense team used to operating in an entirely different context. While Kasowitz has made a career exchanging barbs with day traders and business moguls, Dowd has figured prominently in media-saturated investigations, including Major League Baseball’s investigation of Pete Rose and the Keating Five scandal that nearly torpedoed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s career.

Law practice in Washington, D.C. is not comparable to New York in key respects — money is no object in the nation’s capital, where the government’s vast financial and logistical reserves can bankroll litigation for years. What’s more, cases are often adjudicated before congressional committees and television cameras long before they reach a court, making the PR battle as important as the litigation itself. Dowd’s hiring is sure to supplement the D.C. experience Kasowitz lacks.

But what they possess in bravado they may lack in finesse. Like Kasowitz, Dowd is a hard-charging litigator with a reputation for bumptiousness. Dowd’s debut on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio — to discuss the Rose investigation — degenerated into a shouting match. Rose would go on to sue him for defamation in 2016, after he accused the former player of hawking underage girls at spring training camp.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara chided Dowd on Twitter this weekend, after news broke he had been added to the Trump legal team. He seemed to censure Dowd for representing billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, an accomplished money manager later convicted of insider trading.

Dowd flashed his famous anger at a Wall Street Journal reporter covering the case, accusing him of suckling at Bharara’s teat.

“This is the worst piece of whoring journalism I have read in a long time,” he wrote. “How long are you going to suck Preet’s teat?”

For his part, Kasowitz has spent decades settling class actions for Big Tobacco and playing both sides of business magnate Carl Icahn — The New York Times reports he helped Icahn stage a hostile takeover of RJR Nabisco, only to back Donald Trump in a dispute between the two businessmen over several Trump casinos.

Kasowitz’s firm has generally taken an aggressive posture in representing Trump over the last decade. During the 2016 general election, Kasowitz threatened to sue TheNYTimes after the paper published several pages of Trump’s 1995 tax return. He also brought a defamation suit against the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” for merely suggesting the president’s net-worth was less than $1 billion.

All told, the Dowd-Kasowitz axis is a contentious and perhaps combustible operation.

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