Trump’s Personal Counsel Struggles As Russia Probe Spirals

Reuters/Keith Bedford

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Frustration is mounting between President Donald Trump and his personal counsel, Marc Kasowitz, as the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has engulfed nearly every corner of the West Wing.

The New York Times reports that Trump and Kasowitz are increasingly at odds, particularly over the influence of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The Times’ source says the attorneys view Kushner as a self-interested freelancer who may ultimately prove a liability, given his tenuous loyalty to the administration.

They are also frustrated by his uninhibited access to Trump. The source says Kushner often counsels Trump on the Russia probe, while keeping his legal team at arms length.

Kasowitz’s influence in the West Wing is further compromised by the fact he does not have a security clearance. ProPublica reports that Kasowitz’s ability to fully participate in the formulation of legal and political responses to the investigation will be undermined without a security clearance.

“No question in my mind — in order to represent President Trump in this matter you would have to get a very high level of clearance because of the allegations involving Russia,” Robert Bennett, a Washington lawyer who represented former President Bill Clinton, told ProPublica.

His extensive history of contacts with foreign interests, as well as allegations of alcohol abuse, may disqualify him from access to sensitive information altogether.

Kasowitz has regularly represented international clients, including several with close ties to the Kremlin. Among them are Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who runs an industrial group called Basic Element, as well as Sberbank, the country’s largest state-owned bank.

Such connections, especially since they took place in the ordinary course of business, do not bar access to sensitive information, but they are sure to prolong the investigation attending applications for security clearances.

Kasowitz associates also told ProPublica that he has struggled with alcohol abuse, culminating with a stint in rehab during the winter of 2014-2015. The application for a security clearance specifically asks about compulsory or voluntary commitments to rehabilitation facilities, and interviews conducted in connection with security clearance applications regularly include questions concerning the consumption of alcohol.

Though a spokesman for Kasowitz did not return TheDCNF’s inquiries, they strongly denied he has ever struggled with alcohol abuse in a separate statement.

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