When Trump hired Emmet Flood (JD, Yale, ’91) the legal profession consensus was that, at long last, a principled, disciplined, qualified, and widely respected attorney would finally be in charge. The consensus was wrong.
Flood is the featured player in this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update. In less than a month, he ruined forever a reputation that took him decades to develop. Welcome to the world of Trump’s reverse-King Midas touch afflicting those who become his enablers. For an attorney, it’s an especially ignominious distinction.
Lessons Not Learned
Flood should have known better. Jay Sekulow (JD, Mercer, ’80) is the sole survivor from Trump’s original legal team, and it has cost him dearly. Along with every sentient lawyer, Flood must have felt pain for the entire profession as Sekulow self-destructed.
It began in July 2017, after Don Jr. was caught lying about his June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Jared Kushner (JD/MBA, NYU, ’07), Paul Manafort (JD, Georgetown ’74), and three Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Sekulow hit the national media circuit, proclaiming that Trump himself had nothing to do with his son’s initial false statement. Then the truth emerged: either Sekulow had lied or his client had duped him. No lawyer wants to be the subject of that Hobson’s choice.
Yet Sekulow soldiered on. In February 2018, Politico wrote about Sekulow’s weekly radio program during which he shilled for Trump by attacking the Russia probe. Perhaps he forgot the oath that all lawyers take to uphold the rule of law, along with the legal profession’s ethical rules requiring all attorneys to promote public confidence in the judicial system.
Enter Emmet Flood
But Flood was supposed to be more than just another Sekulow-type Trump lackey. Unlike Sekulow, who from the outset was unqualified for the job of defending Trump, Flood has advised top Republicans (Vice President Dick Cheney during the Valerie Plame episode) and Democrats (President Clinton during his impeachment) through the challenging intersection of law and politics. Flood probably believed that he could avoid landmines that had blown up predecessor legal-enablers such as Marc Kasowitz (JD, Cornell, ’77), John Dowd (JD, Emory, ’65), and Ty Cobb (JD, Georgetown, ’78).
Flood’s first warning sign was Rudy Giuliani (JD, NYU ’68). Prior to Flood, Giuliani had been the most recent addition to Trump’s legal team. The second warning sign came on May 2, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued this press release announcing Flood’s arrival:
“Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt.”
If Flood knew that his publicly stated job description would be helping Trump beat back the “Russia witch hunt” — a stunning official White House declaration — he never should have taken the position. If he didn’t know until Sanders’ announcement, he should have saved himself by resigning immediately and returning to his respected firm law firm, Williams & Connolly. It’s too late now.
Fake “Spy-Gate” Story
Flood knows that Trump traffics in lies and that some are more dangerous than others. Last week’s Big Lie was Trump’s claim that the FBI had planted a spy in his campaign. There was never any evidence to support Trump’s rants. But beginning on May 22, Trump launched “spy-gate.” By the end of the Memorial Day weekend, he’d tweeted 23 more Russia-related attacks on the rule of law.
One of those tweets was Trump’s unprecedented demand: The Justice Department must disclose highly confidential information to Trump’s most complicit GOP congressional ally, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).
[Pro tip known to experienced Trump-Russia Timeline followers: Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline at InvestigateRussia, org and click on Nunes’ name. The resulting entries reveal that he should be a “subject” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, if not a “target.” Nunes was on Trump’s transition team, spoke daily with Mike Flynn in December 2016 (when Flynn was talking to the Russian ambassador about sanctions), and has been a key player in Trump’s efforts to derail the Russia probe. (E.g., Nunes led the phony “unmasking” controversy; he made the “midnight run” of White House documents back to the White House; he championed bogus issues relating to the FBI’s request for a FISA warrant on Carter Page. And so on and so on and so on…]
Nunes’ favorite red herring is attacking the FBI and the Justice Department. Most recently, he has been seeking information about a specific person who became an FBI informant during the Bureau’s counterintelligence investigation of Russians trying to infiltrate the Trump campaign. No prior president has ever attempted to get the FBI or the Department of Justice to divulge such information during an ongoing investigation, much less an investigation involving that president’s own campaign.
Trump’s demand was actually a ham-handed effort to learn what evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has on him and his colleagues. Giuliani admitted it:
“We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it. If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably… What I need to know is, ‘What’s the basis for their doing it?’ Most important, ‘What did the informant produce?'”
Where Was Emmet Flood?
Into this mess walked Emmet Flood — literally. Although Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said previously that no one from the White House would attend the meeting between Nunes, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and senior leaders from the FBI and DOJ, Flood entered the room with chief of staff John Kelly.
Neither Kelly nor Flood had any legitimate reason for attending that meeting. Consistent with long-standing norms, they should have remained far away from a confidential session during which the FBI and the Justice Department would be discussing an investigation into the person who happens to be their boss. Trump is already a “subject” of the probe, yet Flood — a lawyer who knows better — proceeded anyway.
Before the meeting, Trump had tweeted his latest Big Lie eight times. Immediately thereafter — from Friday, May 25 through Tuesday morning, May 29 — he posted another 16 tweets railing about his phony “spy-gate” claim, repeating assaults on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and even asserting that Mueller would “meddle” in the upcoming midterm election. Meanwhile, Giuliani declared Mueller’s investigation “illegitimate.”
Where is Emmet Flood now? It was bad enough that he walked into the Trump assault on democracy in the first place. He has no excuse for staying there as his new client undermines the rule of law by attacking an investigation that has already yielded 22 indictments (including five guilty pleas).
History will judge harshly Flood and others on the long list of Trump’s enablers with law degrees, including Kushner, Manafort, Mike Pence (JD, Indiana-Robert McKinney School of Law, ’86), Kellyanne Conway (JD, George Washington, ’92), Reince Priebus (JD, Miami, ’98), Don McGahn (JD, Widener, ’94), and numerous members of Congress (including Sen. Mitch McConnell, JD, Kentucky, ’67) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (JD, South Carolina, ’89).
None of Trump’s enablers will recover their reputations. Emmet Flood is different from the others in only one respect: he had far more to lose.
Here’s a complete list of this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline updates:
NEW: SEPT. 18, 2016: Stone Wants Info From Assange
NEW: JAN. 9, 2017: Vekselberg Meets With Cohen
REVISED: JAN. 20, 2017: Vekselberg, Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin and Butina Attend Trump Inauguration Festivities; Cohen Gets Big Contract
NEW: MAY 21, 2018: Trump Meets With Wray, Rosenstein and Coats
NEW: MAY 22, 2018: Cohen’s Business Partner Pleads Guilty
NEW: MAY 22, 2018: Trump Continues Tweeting About “Spies” In His Campaign
NEW: MAY 23, 2018: Trump Twitter Barrage About Campaign “Spies” Persists
NEW: MAY 23, 2018: Mueller: “Ongoing Criminal Investigation with Multiple Lines of Non-Public Inquiry”
NEW: MAY 24, 2018: Trump Continues Tweeting About Bogus “Spy-gate”
NEW: MAY 24, 2018: Trump Resumes Attack on Comey
NEW: MAY 24, 2018: White House Meeting Among Rosenstein, Wray, Coats, Kelly, and Congressional Leaders
NEW: MAY 24, 2018: Giuliani: “We Want To See How The Briefing Went Today”
NEW: MAY 25-29, 2018: Trump’s Memorial Day Weekend: 16 Tweets About the Russia Investigation and Spies
NEW: MAY 25, 2018: Deripaska Resigns From Rusal Board
NEW: MAY 25, 2018: Manafort’s Virginia Trial Reset For July 24
NEW: MAY 25, 2018: Giuliani Wants Briefing on Classified Info
NEW: MAY 27, 2018: Guiliani: “The Basis of Mueller’s Appointment is Illegitimate”