How in God’s Name Could So Many Lawyers Get Involved in Something Like This?
That question, asked by John Dean about Watergate half a century ago, is again being asked about the Jan. 6 indictments involving lawyers who were associated with Donald Trump’s wrongheaded attempts to challenge the 2020 presidential election. But there are considerable differences among the roles lawyers were alleged to have played in the two situations: the Nixon lawyers were generally accused of conduct outside of their professional roles as advice-givers and litigators. They were charged largely with participating in crimes such as bribery, planning and covering up an illegal break-in and other acts of obstruction of Justice. Some of them just happened to be lawyers, but they could just as easily been lay people committing criminal acts. They didn’t commit their crimes as lawyers.
The lawyers who are currently indicted or were included as unindicted co-conspirators were, at least in part, accused based on their rendering legal services: giving legal advice, filing lawsuits on behalf of clients, and making statements, both oral and written, as part of their legal representation of clients. That is why these charges are much more questionable and controversial than the ones that were brought against former Attorney General John Mitchell, former White House counsel John Ehrlichman and other Nixon aides who were lawyers.