DRAIN THE SWAMP

Trump’s Personal Lawyer Teams With a Lobbying Giant

The president’s longtime personal attorney has joined forces with a lobbying firm that represents China, Saudi Arabia, and Syrian rebels.

Stephanie Keith / Reuters

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney is joining forces with one of Washington’s top lobbying firms, boosting its roster of political influencers as the president pledges to “drain the swamp” in the nation’s capital.

DC powerhouse Squire Patton Boggs announced on Monday that it had formed a “strategic alliance” with the law firm headed by Michael Cohen, a longtime Trump aide and his private attorney and spokesperson.

Cohen brings deep ties to the president, whom he has served in a personal, professional, and political capacity for more than a decade. He will work out of Squire Patton’s New York, Washington, and London offices, and supplement the firm’s work in navigating the halls of political power on behalf of its impressive client list.

“Clients worldwide increasingly confront challenges and look to seize business opportunities that intersect with governments worldwide,” Mark Ruehlmann, the firm’s chief executive, said in a news release announcing the partnership.

Washington’s nexus of business and government has been a frequent target of criticism for Trump, who has pledged to “drain the swamp” in DC. “For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests they partner with, our campaign represents an existential threat,” he said at an October campaign rally.

Now one of Trump’s closest aides will help one of the country’s premiere lobbying firms advance the interests of its deep-pocketed clients, which include a number of Fortune 500 companies, private and state-owned foreign corporations, and foreign governments and political parties.

Other one-time Trump aides have also sought to monetize their connections to the president, often invoking his idiosyncrasies to market their services.

Corey Lewandowski, who led Trump’s campaign in its early stages, recently began hawking his consulting services as insurance against “tweet risk”—or the potential that the president might say something bad about one’s company on his often aggressive Twitter account.

Cohen’s foray into Washington’s influence industry comes as he seeks to define his role for the president independent of both the White House and the Trump Organization, from which he resigned this year.

Squire Patton announced the partnership on the same day that the Republican National Committee confirmed Cohen’s new fundraising role for the party. He will serve as national deputy chairman of the RNC’s finance leadership team, according to a news release.

The Daily Beast reported on the RNC move last week, but Cohen’s position for the party appears to have been elevated since then. A draft press release last week listed him as a regional vice-chairman of the finance team.

Cohen said he raised half a million dollars for the GOP in the hours after news of his new party leadership role became public.

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Squire Patton made sure to note his new RNC post in its press release.

“We look forward to offering our clients the cutting-edge benefits of our strategic alliance between Michael and our best-in-class global public policy practice, which includes former Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Senator John Breaux, Congressman Jack Kingston and Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and a deep bench of talent around the world,” Ruehlmann said.

With offices in 21 countries, Squire Patton is the country’s third largest lobbying firm in terms of revenue. It has recently eyed ways to adapt to a new reality in President Trump’s Washington.

Anticipated changes inside the Beltway create some uncertainty in the private sector, according to Squire Patton senior policy adviser Dave Schnittger, and that uncertainty creates opportunities for firms that can effectively navigate Washington’s influence industry.

"For the first time in years there is a sense in the private sector that things are going to be moving and changing in Washington, potentially in a big way,” Schnittger told Law360 in January. “Consequently, many are recognizing the need to engage or re-engage in the public policy process.”

The firm brought in $18.85 million in revenue from 118 lobbying clients last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Those clients run the gamut, and include the banking division of state-owned Russian energy firm Gazprom, French airline manufacturer Airbus, commercial spaceflight firm SpaceX, and insurance giant UnitedHealth.

Squire Patton also represents a number of foreign governments and political parties, according to foreign agent filings with the Department of Justice. In February, they signed a $50,000-per-month contract with an umbrella group of Syrian opposition forces.

The firm also represents the governments of China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the West Bank, and the northern Iraqi province of Saladin.