Since becoming the new Congressional majority, House Democrats have made their intent to investigate the Trump team abundantly clear, to say the least. Somehow, the Trump Organization thinks that what’s essentially just a strongly worded letter will get them off their tail, though.
This week, long-serving Trump team lawyer Alan Futerfas sent the House Judiciary Committee a letter pushing them to drop their probes into the Trump family business because of a supposed conflict-of-interest on the part of one of the lawyers the panel brought on to assist in its investigations, Berry Berke. Berke’s firm Kramer Levin has represented the Trump Organization in a number of matters, Futerfas said, so it would supposedly be inappropriate for the lawyer to concurrently work against the business in any capacity.
‘This state of affairs violates recognized ethical obligations and irreparably taints the Committee’s work.’
Surprise — the reality of the situation is more nuanced than Futerfas let on.
Firstly, Kramer Levin explains in response to what they call “baseless” allegations, Berke is working with the House Judiciary Committee in his personal capacity and not in his role as an associate of the firm. They had kind words for the lawyer even still, saying that his “public service” constituted him “following in the finest traditions of the legal profession.”
The firm explains further that their actual relationship with the Trump Organization has been limited. Their representation has “involved only minor tasks for single purpose companies, such as pro forma amendments to condominium offering plans that date back more than a decade or the clearing up of minor building violations for management companies.”
In other words, there’s little ground for Futerfas to sound an alarm like the situation is something like that of the Congressional panel benefiting from the ethically questionable testimony of some current or former high-up in the Trump Organization.
On that note though, after weeks of delays sparked at least in part by what his lawyer Lanny Davis explained as concerns sparked by “threats” from President Donald Trump and presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen will be testifying publicly before the House Oversight Committee this Wednesday in the absence of any further delays.
There, as with the Judiciary Committee’s newly formed investigation, panel members will be dealing with issues including possible corruption at the Trump family business. Numerous issues have arisen, from the president corruptly lining his own pockets to him illegally benefiting from foreign patronage to even money laundering concerns.
Cohen has been reported to have shared information about the Trump Organization with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and some of that information could come out this coming week — whether Futerfas and his strongly worded letters like it or not.
The conflict-of-interest argument mirrors a line President Trump himself raised in an early effort to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, having claimed the prosecutor was conflicted at least in part because of supposed past business disputes between the two. The similarity possibly indicates the Trump team setting down the same contentious path in the case of the new House Democratic oversight of Trump’s business dealings.
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