Trump's Lawyers Are Using This One Legal Trick to Ensure Sure His Associates Are On the Same Page In the Mueller Probe
As special counsel Robert Mueller interviewed Donald Trump's circle of associates, Trump's lawyers formed a network of agreements with their lawyers in order to keep track of what Mueller was asking and whom he was targeting. Mutual cooperation, or Joint Defense Agreements (JDAs), between lawyers who can share privileged information with each other is not uncommon in sprawling white-collar cases, writes Politico.
But the extensive contacts between Trump's attorneys and lawyers for more than 30 Trump associates could taint Mueller's investigation. Earlier this year, at one of the most critical points in the probe, Trump's lawyers even held weekly conference calls to coordinate strategies with other lawyers.
And while JDAs are somewhat commonplace, bragging about them as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has done is not. Giuliani recently touted some 32 such agreements that include both Trump accountant Allen Weisselberg (who was granted immunity by prosecutors to provide information about Michael Cohen) and now criminally convicted former campaign chair Paul Manafort (who is cooperating with Mueller while seeking leniency on his sentencing). Maintaining such an agreement once one flips and begins aiding an investigation is highly unusual. Lawyers for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, for instance, terminated their JDA with Trump's attorneys shortly before Flynn announced he would cooperate with the inquiry.
Though information shared through JDAs is privileged, it does not negate sharing facts that are independently known by a witness. A witness can also wave the right to keep the information privileged if they wish to divulge it to prosecutors. Here's an apt way of putting it:
“Imagine if the mafia used a JDA to try to hide a conspiracy to commit crimes. That’ll go no place,” said Norm Eisen, a former top ethics official in the Obama White House and a frequent critic of the Trump administration.
While the information sharing may have constrained Mueller’s inquiry in some respects, Giuliani boasting about it almost surely touched a nerve for Mueller, who has no restrictions on what evidence he can choose to include in his final report to Congress.