Politics

Rep. Matt Gaetz hires defense lawyer Marc Mukasey, who represents Trump Organization in criminal probe

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Key Points
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz has hired two top New York defense lawyers, one of whom represents the Trump Organization in a criminal probe, to represent him as he faces a federal sex trafficking investigation.
  • The retention of the Trump firm's lawyer Marc Mukasey is noteworthy not only for Mukasey's record of handling serious criminal cases but also because Gaetz is among former President Donald Trump's most ardent defenders.
  • The moves came as a lawyer for Gaetz's friend Joel Greenberg indicated Thursday that Greenberg plans to plead guilty in a federal case in which he has been charged with sex trafficking of an underage girl, wire fraud, stalking and trying to bribe a federal official.
Marc Mukasey, a lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, following a ruling by a judge to allow Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp to provide financial records to investigators, in New York City, U.S., May 22, 2019.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Rep. Matt Gaetz has hired two top New York defense lawyers — one of whom currently represents the Trump Organization in an ongoing criminal probe — to represent him as the Florida Republican faces a federal sex trafficking investigation.

The retention of the Trump firm's lawyer Marc Mukasey is noteworthy not only for Mukasey's track record of handling serious criminal cases but also because Gaetz is among former President Donald Trump's most ardent defenders.

Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor who is the son of former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, also had been a protege of Trump's personal lawyer former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Joining Mukasey in representing Gaetz in the criminal probe is Isabelle Kirshner.

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House Ethics Committee opens probe of Fla. Rep. Matt Gaetz

Gaetz, who has not been criminally charged, also has hired a public relations firm, the Washington-based Logan Circle Group, to manage what has been damning media fallout after news of the federal probe first broke last week in The New York Times.

The moves came as a lawyer for Gaetz's friend Joel Greenberg indicated Thursday that Greenberg plans to plead guilty in a federal case where he has been charged with sex trafficking of an underage girl, wire fraud, stalking and trying to bribe a federal official.

That case against Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector, led to the ongoing investigation of Gaetz, 38, on suspicion of an illicit sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Investigators also are eyeing whether Gaetz paid women to travel to the Bahamas for sex, according to NBC News, as well as whether he and Greenberg used the internet to search for women to be paid for sex.

The disclosure that Greenberg expects to reach a plea deal in his own case ignited immediate speculation that he would cooperate with federal authorities as they continue to investigate Gaetz, who has denied any wrongdoing.

"I'm sure Matt Gaetz isn't feeling very comfortable today," said Greenberg's lawyer Fritz Scheller on Thursday after he appeared in court in the case. "You've seen the number of stories out there and the emphasis is on their relationship. Isn't it obvious to assume that he would be concerned?"

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) listens during a committee markup hearing on the articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Erin Elmore of Logan Circle Group in a statement Friday said of Gaetz: "Matt has always been a fighter."

"A fighter for his constituents, a fighter for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution," Elmore said.

"He's going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him. His legal team, led by Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner, will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with falsehoods."

Elmore is a lawyer who appeared in Season 3 as a contestant on Trump's former television show "The Apprentice."

The Logan Circle Group is headed by Harlan Hill, another Trump advocate, who was banned last fall from appearing on the conservative Fox News network after he tweeted that Vice President "Kamala Harris comes off as such an insufferable lying b----. Sorry, it's just true."

Mukasey declined to comment to CNBC about his work for Gaetz, pointing to Elmore's statement.

A spokesman for Kirshner declined to comment for her other than confirming that she and Mukasey had been retained by Gaetz.

Trump has not said much in Gaetz's defense in the past week, other than to deny a story that Gaetz sought a blanket criminal pardon from Trump before the end of his term in January and to point out that Gaetz "has totally denied the accusations against him."

Mukasey is one of several lawyers representing Trump's company in a criminal investigation by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is looking into not only the company but also the former president himself and others connected to the firm.

Vance's office is believed to be investigating possible tax and bank fraud by the Trump Organization, as well as whether the company properly accounted for hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who say they had sex with Trump.

The ex-president denies the women's claims and has said Vance's probe is a witch hunt.

On Thursday, investigators from Vance's office collected financial records from Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.

Jennifer Weisselberg has said she is cooperating with Vance's probe. The Washington Post reported that a subpoena issued at Vance's request sought documents in her possession that relate to the Trump Organization and an ice rink the company had run in Central Park, which Weisselberg's ex-husband, Barry Weisselberg, managed.

Michael Cohen, who served for years as Trump's personal lawyer, has also cooperated with Vance's investigation.

At the same time, New York Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a civil investigation of whether the Trump Organization improperly valued various real estate assets for financial benefits in the form of lower tax liabilities, insurance rates and loan terms.

Mukasey is representing the Trump Organization in James' investigation.

Isabelle Kirshner attends Artwalk NY 2015 at Metropolitan Pavilion on November 17, 2015 in New York City.
Chance Yeh | Getty Images

Kirshner, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney, previously represented former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Trump enemy who resigned in 2018 after The New Yorker magazine published an article detailing claims by four women who said he had "subjected them to nonconsensual physical violence." Schneiderman denied their claims.

Kirshner also previously represented Dr. Robert Hadden, a Manhattan gynecologist who was charged by federal prosecutors last September with sexually assaulting multiple patients from 1993 to 2012.

Evelyn Yang, whose husband, Andrew Yang, now is running for New York mayor and sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, told CNN last year that she was sexually assaulted while seven months pregnant by Hadden during a visit to his office.