Playbook, my old haunt, reported last week an interesting sighting of Boris Epshteyn, Donald Trump’s legal quarterback, meeting with Hogan Lovells partner Aaron Cutler over breakfast at Bourbon Steak on Pennsylvania Avenue. The two are old friends, of course, and Washington is a small town where lawyers routinely do each other favors. However, according to people familiar with the conversation, this breakfast meeting involved Cutler proposing to Epshteyn that his white shoe firm could help the Trump legal team with the fallout stemming from the Mar-a-Lago document headache. In particular, Cutler said that Hogan Lovells could help manage Judge Raymond Dearie, Trumpworld’s handpicked, and instantly regrettable, special master in the case.
Trump’s embattled legal team, after all, seemingly extrapolated that Dearie’s role in the Carter Page FISA case indicated that he was some sort of F.B.I. scold, who might view the former president’s case with sympathy. As it turned out, however, that was a gut-made, diligence-light miscalculation. In fact, Dearie has been downright hostile to Trump’s team in court, telling them, among other things, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” It was a bad bet, one of Trump’s advisors told me.
Over breakfast, Cutler told Epshteyn that his firm’s lawyers in New York could help; among other things, they had experience with Dearie, and could help manage the situation. This kicked off Hogan Lovells’s proposal to help the Trump legal team with their document issue via various lawyers, and even lobbyists. Ultimately, however, the arrangement never got off the ground. Instead, some lawyers at the firm were not keen to get involved in Trump’s legal woes and, these being particularly politically savvy lawyers, various conflicts of interest somehow began to emerge. Just this week, the team at Hogan Lovells made it known to Trumpworld that they could not take the case.