Complaints have been lodged with the District of Columbia and New York City Bar Associations against President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney Marc Kasowitz, calling for an investigation to determine if he has breached rules of professional conduct.
Separate complaints were filed over the week against Kasowitz by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit government watchdog organization, and by attorney Neil Goldfarb, a former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union. They both allege that Kasowitz may have inappropriately counseled other White House staffers while representing the president, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.
In addition, the CfA complaint alleges that Kasowitz is not currently authorized to practice law in Washington, D.C.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz, dismissed the complaints in a statement to Law.com, calling them “obviously politically motivated” and “based on press reports, which were based on anonymous sources.”
Trump has called on his longtime personal attorney to represent him as investigations heat up into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump acknowledged Friday that he is now a target of a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible obstruction of justice linked to the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Last week, Kasowitz issued a statement characterizing Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as very positive for the president (which he spelled “predisent”). He threatened to file legal complaints against Comey because of Comey’s admission that he had shared the contents of a memo about a meeting with Trump to a friend, asking the friend to give it to a reporter.
Kasowitz, a member of the New York bar, has been advising Trump and reportedly other members of the president’s staff, even though he is not currently authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia, according to the CfA complaint. He told White House aides it was not yet necessary to hire their own private attorneys, The New York Times reported, citing anonymous sources. Such behavior could be construed as a conflict of interest.
“By meeting with White House staff within the White House complex and offering the legal opinion that those staffers need not hire counsel, [Kasowitz] may have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law,” the CfA complaint states. “In addition, by advising White House staff members, who are not represented by counsel and who have a reasonable possibility of having interests that conflict with those of Mr. Kasowitz’s client, President Trump, Mr. Kasowitz appears to have violated” a rule of professional conduct concerning conflicts of interest.
Goldfarb similarly pointed out in his complaint that “there is obviously a very reasonable possibility that [aides’] personal interests are in conflict with those of President Trump’s.”
The complaints from CfA and Goldfarb come as another of Trump’s private attorneys, Michael Cohen, confirmed to The Washington Post that he has hired his own lawyer to represent his interests during federal investigations into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign team.
CORRECTION: Trump’s private attorney is Michael Cohen, not Mark Cohen. Language has also been revised to clarify that Comey testified he asked a friend to share the contents of his memo, not the memo itself, to a reporter.