Editor’s Note: A correction to this story has been appended and the story updated.
The lawyer hired to represent President Donald Trump in various federal investigations is a highly experienced and successful legal mind, but he doesn’t exactly have a perfect score representing the man who is now commander-in-chief.
Marc E. Kasowitz lost a highly publicized libel case he filed on behalf of Trump. And the $1,500-an-hour New York trial attorney also has been criticized for sending two letters threatening to sue The New York Times for its coverage of candidate Trump — but never suing — and for arguing that the president is immune from a libel lawsuit.
Kasowitz has won some cases for Trump, including recently defeating a media motion to open Trump’s divorce records in New York, where divorce records are traditionally secret. Kasowitz’s website also says that the lawyer defeated financier Carl Icahn’s takeover plan for Trump’s three Atlantic City casinos in bankruptcy court.
Trump has retained Kasowitz to act as his private lawyer in dealing with federal probes by a special counsel and congressional investigations into possible collusion by the Trump campaign last year with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Washington Post and other media outlets. Trump denies any misconduct and says he is not under investigation.
Kasowitz’s big libel loss for Trump was in New Jersey. Kasowitz filed a $5 billion — yes, billion with a “b” — libel lawsuit in 2006 against book author Timothy O’Brien and his book publishers over O’Brien’s 2005 book, “TrumpNation, the Art of Being the Donald.”
The website for Kasowitz’s law firm, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in New York, mentions the “TrumpNation” lawsuit but not the later dismissal.
Kasowitz claimed on behalf of Trump that the book falsely reported that Trump merely was a millionaire, not the billionaire that Trump claimed.
A New Jersey judge dismissed the lawsuit and the dismissal was affirmed by a New Jersey appeals court in 2011. The court ruled Kasowitz failed to prove that O’Brien published his statements knowing they were false or with seriously doubts, known as publishing with “actual malice.”
In 2010, Kasowitz defended Trump and Trump University in a class-action fraud suit. Trump and Trump University paid $25 million to settle that suit and two others alleging fraud soon after Trump won the presidency.
Last year, Kasowitz grabbed headlines when he sent two letters threatening to sue the New York Times for reporting about Trump during the presidential campaign.
Trump’s lawyer threatened to sue New York Times for publishing an article about two women who claimed they were groped by the candidate before he ran for president.
Kasowitz told the newspaper in his Oct. 13, 2016 letter that the article was “defamatory” and a “failure to retract the story will leave my client with no option but to pursue all available actions and remedies.” The Times published an article about Kasowitz’s letter and the response by the newspaper’s lawyer, who said the article would not be retracted and invited Trump to sue. He has not.
Several days earlier, Kasowitz wrote another letter threatening legal action against the Times, saying the paper’s publication of Trump’s leaked state income tax returns was “illegal.” No lawsuit followed that threat, either.
In his latest representation of Trump, Kasowitz is arguing that Trump is immune from a libel lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a contestant from NBC’s “The Apprentice” reality television show who claimed she was groped by Trump.
Zervos claims that Trump defamed her by calling her a liar after she publicly alleged that Trump groped her while she worked on “The Apprentice” with Trump.
“President Trump intends to file a motion to dismiss or stay this action until he leaves office on the ground that the United States Constitution, including the Supremacy Clause, immunizes President Trump from being sued in this action while he is in office,” Kasowitz argued on behalf of Trump in a recent court filing. Trump has until July 7 to file an immunity motion.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that sitting presidents cannot claim immunity from civil lawsuits for their pre-presidential actions, Kasowitz is relying on an obscure passage in the court decision suggesting that a president might be immune if sued in state court instead of federal court. The Zervos case was filed in state court.
Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe said Kasowitz’s immunity argument is “wrong.” John Dean, a former counsel to President Richard Nixon, agreed and argued only a “blindly partisan” court would rule in Trump’s favor.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that Kasowitz represented Trump in a libel lawsuit against former Trump University student Tarla Makaeff. He did not, and the story has been updated throughout to reflect this.