Legal minds were none too pleased about Donald Trump‘s White House lawyer for the Russia probe and the president’s chief of staff showing up at a Department of Justice meeting they apparently had no business being at.
Emmet Flood and John Kelly made waves when they were seen at two meetings between DOJ officials and members of Congress about the “informant” the FBI had inside the Trump campaign.
White House chief of staff John Kelly just walked into the senate- I asked him why White House lawyer Emmet Flood was at the DOJ briefing. No response.
— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) May 24, 2018
Emmet Flood, WH attorney dealing with the Russia probe, attended the the start of the DOJ meeting on confidential FBI source, I am told. He left meeting shortly after. He was spotted by @LauraAJarrett leaving DOJ with John Kelly
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 24, 2018
Flood reportedly left not long after these meetings began.
“Neither [Kelly] nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later.
Still, Flood’s appearance at a classified meeting involving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Rep. Trey Gowdy and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) raised eyebrows. Nunes is chair of the House Intelligence Committee and Schiff is the top Democrat there. Gowdy, who is retiring, is the chair of the House Oversight Committee.
Lawyers wanted to know what interest Flood had being there:
He is assisting the Office of the President in responding to legal issues implicated by the Congressional and Special Counsel probes into possible criminal coordination by the campaign w/ Russia. I respectfully disagree on the appropriateness of his presence at this briefing. https://t.co/zq1f40Qudw
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) May 24, 2018
It is completely inappropriate for a lawyer representing a subject of the investigation to attend the congressional oversight meeting in which nonpublic information about the investigation was revealed. What possible legitimate purpose could his attendance have served? https://t.co/4TdMvPF5AZ
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 24, 2018
And it shows the absolute lie that this meeting has anything do with "transparency" as DJT claimed yesterday. This is about DJT & his Repub protectors trying to get information about an on-going criminal investigation that surrounds him. @MSNBC https://t.co/R2QuzXWNFJ
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) May 24, 2018
Law&Crime asked these three lawyers why they viewed the Flood appearance as inappropriate.
National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss called it an “error” and said there was no reason for Flood to be there.
“At an absolute minimum, this is an unforced and unnecessary error on the part of the White House. There is no reason for Flood to be present at this particular meeting, even if only to handle initial introductions,” he said. “This is a DOJ briefing for lawmakers about an informant who provided the FBI with information during the course of the agency’s initial investigation into possible Russian interference in and coordination with the Trump campaign.”
“The head of that campaign was the candidate, who is now the President. To have the President’s in-house counsel present at that meeting reeks of potential impropriety,” he added.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti asked in his tweet above what “legitimate purpose” Flood could have had for being there.
He said that the appearance could have been an attempt to undermine the Mueller Probe.
“A possible illegitimate purpose could be to use the power of the presidency to influence Congressional leadership in an attempt to use their oversight power to undermine the Mueller investigation,” Mariotti said. “If they had stayed at the meeting, which I thought was possible at the time, another possible illegitimate purpose would have been to discover information about the investigation that could be used to undermine the investigation.”
“It’s worth noting that Giuliani spoke to Politico as if his team will learn the substance of today’s briefing,” he added.
Giuliani did, indeed, speak that way.
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) May 24, 2018
Giuliani later said “the President personally wanted Emmet there today.”
MSNBC Legal Analyst Mimi Rocah said that this is “unheard of and unwarranted in our criminal justice system.”
“The real purpose of this meeting is about Trump and the subjects of an ongoing criminal investigation trying to get information to help inform their defense — something that is unheard of and unwarranted in our criminal justice system,” she said. “In fact, the entire premise of the meeting — that there was a ‘spy’ planted in the Trump campaign for political purposes is a lie. A confidential source was utilized by law enforcement to talk to certain people to ferret out why Russian operatives were in contact with those people (and about which Trump was warned).”
In case you missed it, Flood was added to Trump’s White House legal team on at the beginning of May when Ty Cobb announced his retirement. It has been noted that Flood was in in the White House Counsel’s Office during George W. Bush’s second term as president and represented Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings.
According to Flood’s bio at Williams & Connolly, the law firm where he served as a partner, Flood “represents individuals, corporations and professional services firms in complex white-collar matters, Congressional investigations, professional liability disputes, and other high-stakes litigation and crisis situations.”
Editor’s note: this story was updated after publication for clarity and with additional comment from Giuliani.
[Image via by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]