After the recent tapes of Donald Trump’s “locker room chatter” were released, it’s a little hard to focus on anything else. But just to round out the topic of how utterly indefensible Trump is as a person, I’d like to point out another little story that popped up yesterday. Several news outlets got their hands on some legal records in which Trump’s own lawyers admitted that they knew him to be a serial liar. Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, Patrick McGhan said, under oath, that Trump’s legal team always met with him in pairs, so they didn’t have a problem of people lying. And by “people,” Mr. McGhan meant “Trump.” When pressed on why such precaution would be necessary, Mr. McGhan explained, “we tried to do it with Donald always if we could because Donald says certain things and then has a lack of memory,” and described Trump as “an expert at interpreting things. Let’s put it that way.”
Experienced lawyers have all worked with these kinds of clients – those who are so practiced at lying that they even lie to their own counsel, despite the utter counter-productivity of such actions. Members of the bar learn to take precautions to protect ourselves from the lies of our own clients. Whether it’s starting sentences with “it’s my understanding that…” in court, or clearly notating “facts” vs. “client statements,” we develop tricks of the trade that insulate us against the lying mouths of our dishonest clients. Many of us try to reason with our clients – to explain to them that we can help best when we have accurate information, and to assure them that attorney-client privilege weighs in favor of honesty and disclosure. But in the end, we know that there are some clients for whom honesty is impossible, either because of their personal pathologies, or because the facts of their cases are just too damning. For those clients, we take extra measures. We set up systems, like meeting in pairs, or having clients sign off on incremental steps of their case. That’s what Trump’s lawyers did. They knew he could never be trusted, and they weren’t willing to go down on the USS Trump, whenever its descent finally began.
Clearly, it’s no more “news” that Trump is a habitual liar than it is that he’s an offensive, predatory, misogynist. But it’s the effect of Trump’s misdeeds that warrants a second glance. Those around him seem simply to adjust. Lawyers, colleagues, political allies, wives, voters – they all just adjust to create an illusory framework in which Trump’s actions either aren’t real or just don’t matter.
Perhaps the truest thing Donald Trump has ever said was contained in that offensive tape with Billy Bush; celebrities often can do whatever they wish. They can grab women wherever they choose, and take from them whatever they desire. And it is our reaction to such a reality that reinforces it. When we adjust, create elaborate systems of paper trails, or otherwise distance ourselves from the bad behavior of others — we reinforce their right to engage in that behavior. Trump’s lawyers may simply be hard-working professionals who did what they must for self-preservation, but their choice to work around their client’s abhorrent behavior is the fuel of entitlement. Trump’s counsel are obligated by an oath of zealous advocacy to do what they can to further their client’s interests within ethical boundaries; for them, insulating themselves against his lies may be a necessary evil. But the rest of us have a choice. We can refuse to be architects of a society that permits abuse of power. Habitual dishonesty, like predatory misogyny, is one of those topics that is simply binary: either you’re part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.
This is an opinion piece. The opinions are the views of just the author.
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.