by Jim Greenfield

Carl Bernstein became famous as an investigative reporter in the 1970’s as part of the Washington Post team of Woodward and Bernstein, whose investigation into the Watergate Scandal brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. But look at this recent CNN report and consider whether Carl Bernstein still has any credibility:

Bernstein: Trump’s lawyers tell him what he wants to hear on Russia
By Daniella Diaz, CNN
December 31, 2017

Washington (CNN). Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s lawyers are telling him what he wants to hear about the probe ending soon to prevent Trump from firing Mueller.
“There are many times he has expressed, I’m told by people in the White House, the desire to fire Mueller, the desire to pardon people under investigation including his family,” Bernstein, a CNN contributor, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “His lawyers are telling him what he wants to hear — that’s what I’m told — by lawyers in the White House, they’re telling him what he wants to hear to keep him from acting precipitously and to go off and fire Mueller in a rage, or fire (Deputy Attorney General) Rod Rosenstein in a rage. They have an out-of-control client.”

Bernstein added: “The President of the United States, in their view, is out of control most of the time, in their view, when it comes to this investigation.”
(See report at: http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/31/politics/bob-woodward-carl-bernstein-donald-trump-white-house-russia/index.html)

In making these claims, Carl Bernstein is unwittingly accusing President Trump’s attorneys of serious professional misconduct. Moreover, Bernstein is implicitly claiming that Trump’s lawyers are so stupid that they intentionally disclosed their own misconduct to the media, i.e. to him.

If Bernstein’s report is true, Donald Trump’s lawyers violated at least three sections of the Washington D.C. Lawyers’ Code of Professional Conduct.

Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6–Confidentiality of Information says:

“… [A] lawyer shall not knowingly:
(1) reveal a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client;
(2) use a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client to the disadvantage of the client;
(b) “Confidence” refers to information protected by the attorney-client privilege… and “secret” refers to other information gained in the professional relationship … the disclosure of which would be embarrassing, or … detrimental, to the client.”
(See https://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/amended-rules/rule1-06.cfm )

If Bernstein is telling the truth that Trump’s lawyers disclosed to him confidential information about their communications with their client, the lawyers clearly violated this section of the Code.

Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.4—Communication says:
“(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter….
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions ….”
(See https://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/amended-rules/rule1-04.cfm)

If Bernstein is telling the truth that Trump’s lawyers intentionally misled him about the status of the Mueller investigation in an attempt to manipulate him so as to alter his behavior (i.e. not fire Mueller), such deceptive conduct by Trump’s lawyers clearly violated this provision of the Code.

Rule 1.3–Diligence and Zeal says:
“ ….
(b) A lawyer shall not intentionally: …. prejudice or damage a client during the course of the professional relationship.…..
[6] … a lawyer should always act in a manner consistent with the best interests of the client.”
(See https://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/amended-rules/rule1-03.cfm)

If Bernstein’s report is true, Trump’s lawyers violated this section of the Code of Professional Responsibility by disclosing to an investigative reporter who is an adversary of their client, information that was damaging and prejudicial to their client, with near certitude that the damaging disclosure would be released to the public in a manner that would harm their client.

If Bernstein’s report is true, Trump’s lawyers disclosed to Bernstein that they were deceiving their client. The lawyers, Bernstein says, lied to Trump by telling him that the Mueller probe will soon be over when in fact they knew it would not soon be over. According to Bernstein, Trump’s lawyers then disclosed this lie to a prominent critic of the President (Bernstein) so that he could report it to the whole world.

Let’s break this down:

1. If Trump’s lawyers were indeed lying to him, why would they tell Bernstein? Wouldn’t they know that the first thing Bernstein would do with such a disclosure is go on CNN with it? Wouldn’t they also know that after appearing on the news, word would immediately get back to Trump who would then know that his lawyers had lied to him? Upon learning from the news report the truth that the probe was not soon coming to an end, Trump would promptly fire Mueller, the exact opposite result of that sought by the lawyers, according to Bernstein. Before firing Mueller, however, Trump would no doubt fire his crooked lawyers who had thus betrayed him.

2. Such flagrant violations of the Code of Professional Conduct by Trump’s lawyers would likely result in their disbarment. Trump’s lawyers would certainly know this. In fact, I haven’t practiced law for 35 years, but as soon as I saw this story, I immediately recognized, as would any lawyer, that the conduct by the lawyers Bernstein alleges would have violated provisions of the Code of Professional Conduct barring a lawyer from betraying his client’s confidence, deceiving his client, and acting in a manner contrary to his client’s interest. What incentive could Trump’s lawyers possibly have to betray their client in this manner knowing that they would thus destroy their own careers?

3. Lawyers would also be guilty of violating the Code of Professional Conduct if they knowingly lied to their client as claimed by Bernstein, in telling Trump that the Mueller probe would soon be over, when they knew that in fact it will not soon be over.

4. Not only would these ethical violations by Trump’s lawyers likely lead to disciplinary action by the Bar Association, but such professional misconduct could result in a major civil malpractice claim against them by Donald Trump.

5. In addition to the financial liability, the damage to these lawyers’ reputations would be irreparable. What other client would hire such lawyers after such a major public scandal? And why would they disclose their own misconduct to a prominent investigative reporter, knowing that he would report their violations to the public?

How likely is it that lawyers of a stature to be serving the President of the United States, would do anything so palpably stupid as what is claimed here by Carl Bernstein?

This story is a glaring example of fabricated fake news. Unfortunately Bob Woodward allowed himself to be drawn into this debacle by appearing alongside Bernstein on this CNN program. However Woodward never endorsed the phony claims by Bernstein.

There’s a big difference between Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Woodward is an honest, smart, investigative reporter. Bernstein is an agenda-driven political hack with no credibility. This “report” by Carl Bernstein is so manifestly false and fraudulent that it could mark the end of Bernstein’s career.