Trump Once Tried To Pay A $2 Million Legal Bill With A Horse, A New Book Reveals. His Reputation For Shortchanging Lawyers Made The Firm That Helped Him Win The 2016 Election Doubt They Would Get Paid At All.

By David Enrich 5 hours ago


  • In a new book, David Enrich takes a deep dive into the 127-year-old law firm Jones Day.
  • Donald McGahn, a partner at Jones Day, left the firm to serve as Trump’s White House counsel.
  • The following is an excerpt from the book, in which McGahn meets Donald Trump for the first time.

In February 2015, Don McGahn arrived at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. McGahn was a star lawyer in conservative circles; he had spent years representing a who’s who of Republican politicians and causes. His crowning achievement had been several years on the Federal Election Commission, where, to the delight of GOP lawmakers, McGahn helped water down campaign-spending regulations and slowed the agency’s rulemaking to a crawl.

These days McGahn was a partner at the international law firm Jones Day, part of a new team devoted to helping Republicans win elections and stay out of trouble. Trump, who was preparing to launch a bare-bones presidential campaign, was trying to bolster his credibility among conservative voters.

That was why McGahn was at Trump Tower

The lawyer rode a golden elevator up to the twenty-sixth floor and was led into Trump’s office. Trump was sitting behind his cluttered desk. After what seemed like an hour of small talk, Trump got to the point. What do you charge? he asked.

“My hourly rate is $800,” McGahn replied.

“No shit,” Trump exclaimed. “Good for you.”

Later that month, Trump began taking steps to show that his easy-to-dismiss candidacy was for real. To underscore his seriousness, he mentioned that he had hired McGahn. “I’m not doing this for enjoyment,” Trump said. “I’m doing this because the country is in serious trouble.” (In perhaps a more telling sign of his seriousness, Trump also noted that he was holding off on another season of Celebrity Apprentice, his NBC reality show.)

One day in the spring of 2015, McGahn took a Jones Day associate over to Trump Tower. The associate was eager to soak up campaign experience, and McGahn figured the fledgling Trump campaign would be an interesting experience for the young lawyer. The associate would get a firsthand glimpse of how some no-frills campaigns functioned. Also, unlike those with professionally run outfits, the Trump folks wouldn’t mind a random lawyer showing up. “I can’t take you to Rick Perry’s campaign, because they’re serious,” McGahn told his colleague.

The meeting was with Cory Lewandowski, who was the campaign’s manager, and Alan Garten, a longtime Trump Organization executive. After sandwiches at the Trump Grill in the building’s lobby, the men moved upstairs to the nerve center of the Trump Organization. They sat in Lewandowski’s little office, down the hall from Trump’s large one.

The meeting was completely unstructured

Lewandowski showed off the campaign’s new letterhead, and he asked for the lawyers’ input on their talking points on issues like abortion (Trump had previously been pro-choice).

Toward the end of the meeting, Lewandowski asked about how to account for the campaign’s use of Trump’s private jet. The campaign would have to reimburse Trump for flights; was it okay if they just guessed how much each trip cost? McGahn patiently informed them that, no, they could not just guess, there were rules about this, and they needed to be followed.

“These guys are morons,” McGahn told the associate afterward. (McGahn disputed the quotes attributed to him, in particular the word “moron.” “I certainly have some go-to phrases, but that is not one of them,” he said. He added that “many of the folks I met in New York were quite sharp and impressive in their chosen fields—though many of them had little or no political experience.”)


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