A Democratic senator facing corruption charges and the Republican son-in-law of the president facing allegations of using private email for White House business. They have this in common: their lawyer, Abbe Lowell.
Lowell, a Washington criminal defense attorney, is representing Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is on trial for allegedly doing official favors in exchange for political contributions and freebies from a Florida ophthalmologist. He’s also the lawyer for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner who is facing questions about his use of a private email account.
Lowell also knows a thing or two about Jewish cuisine.
Last month during the Menendez trial in Newark, N.J., U.S. District Judge William Walls granted both the defense and the prosecution the right to introduce limited amounts of evidence, which he referred to “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” and compared it to a “Jewish stew,” according to Politico.
“I think the word is tsimmes,” Lowell told Walls.
When the trial resumed after Rosh Hashanah, Lowell brought in a pot of the carrot-based dish to share and declared, “This is a new way of serving the government.”
Political figures in hot water are Lowell’s specialty. His clientele has included President Bill Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In July, Kushner turned to Lowell for legal assistance as he continues to be a subject of two probes surrounding his contact with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign, and more recently, allegations that he used his private email accounts for White House business.
When Washington Jewish Week interviewed Lowell in 2012, he deflected much of the attention away from himself, but said he thinks the trait that defines him is his “ability to synthesize words into speech.”
“That allows me to be a trial lawyer,” he said then. “It allows me to be a teacher. It allows me to be an annoyance to my parents. So what I like about it is it puts me in touch with something that’s innate about me. It’s an outlet that allows my existence to make sense.”
Those who have shared a courtroom with Lowell agreed with this characterization.
“Abbe’s a man of many skills, which is why he’s a successful lawyer,” said his friend and colleague Baruch Weiss.
Weiss, a Washington attorney, noted Lowell’s sense of humor and dedication to each client. He described Lowell’s oratory as a “very formal but relaxed,” and said he is always well prepared for trial.
Weiss got to know Lowell in 2005 when the two defended former AIPAC staffers Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who had been charged with espionage for allegedly passing secrets to journalists and the Israeli government. The spying charges were dismissed in 2009 at the government’s request.
Weiss said he thought the judge in the case had been predisposed to the government’s position when the case started, but it seemed the judge began to reconsider after Lowell presented defense arguments in a pretrial hearing.
“There was a moment where [the judge] turns to Abbe with a look that said, ‘I’ve come to trust you. I need your input on this.’ The judge didn’t say any of that, but there was something about his facial expression and in the way he turned to Abbe that said that.”
Michael Frisch, former senior assistant and assistant bar counsel to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, was the opposing counsel in the mid-1990s when Lowell represented lawyer Randy Weiss, who had turned himself in for embezzling more than $600,000 from the firm where he worked. The court barred Weiss from practicing law for two years, with a third year suspended in favor of two years on probation or until his therapist deemed he no longer needed therapy.
Frisch said he came to respect his counterpart.
White collar criminal defense is “a very specialized area of the law and I thought he was brilliant,” Frisch said. “He’s a very pleasant person to be around. He’s not overbearing like big shot lawyers are.”
When Lowell, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, is not in the courtroom, he can be found at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, where he’s been a member for 20 years. He studies Torah on Saturday afternoons and from time to time gives a sermon on the week’s Torah portion.
“I’ve never been in a courtroom with him, but I’ve seen him in the way he approaches Torah study,” said Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt. “He is always well prepared. He has an extremely analytical mind.”
Weinblatt called Lowell one of the brightest people he’s ever met. He said Lowell is like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, in which a hush falls on a room when the brokerage firm’s name is mentioned.
“That’s Abbe. When he talks, people listen.”
Managing Editor David Holzel contributed to this article.