Hey, remember when the government ethics office was warning Team Trump that they really, really ought to pay attention to the mountain of ethics rules and federal laws that apply to incoming government officials because it could save them a lot of time and cash later and Team Trump was all, ya know, whateverz? Well guess what? Bill’s comin’ due.
White House aides bracing for subpoenas and grand jury summons have already begun making inquiries for legal help to navigate the unfamiliar terrain, according to lawyers who have been contacted, opening critical lines of communication in a bid to avoid serious harm to their reputations and careers, and perhaps even jail time. […]
As Mueller’s probe launches, Washington has been on a crash course relearning the rules of the road for how executive branch aides can fund their legal help, short of paying in full. The Washington Post reported Friday that an unnamed senior White House adviser is already a person of interest in the federal investigation into potential Trump campaign collusion with Russian hackers seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The short version: They’re boned. Defending yourself from a grand jury or a Senate subpoena can cost six figures or more. Meanwhile, the federal investigations into what Trump team members knew about Russian hacking or ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s apparent lawbreaking are only beginning, and every last administration member who’s had contact with one of the subjects of the investigations is going to have to lawyer up, largely at their own expense. Unless they can get Donald to pay for it (not bloody likely) or they are popular enough with the base to crowdsource their own legal defense fund, it’s up to them—and not the White House counsel or the Department of Justice—to pay for their own legal teams.
“Even at sharply discounted rates, and associates doing the work, it’s prohibitively expensive for a normal human being,” said Norm Eisen, the former chief ethics lawyer in President Barack Obama’s White House. “Its financially ruinous. It’s personally devastating.”
Tiny violins all around, then. It turns out that breaking federal laws because you couldn’t be bothered to do otherwise has a steep cost. It turns out that hitching your wagon to a team that ignores ethics advice and legal warnings will, indeed, come back to bite you if they do indeed break those laws. People like Sean Spicer, for example, may or may not have violated any federal laws themselves. But they signed up to work for a team with clear contempt for those laws—and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when the investigators come knocking at their doors, too.