At a Crucial Juncture, Trump’s Legal Defense Is Largely a One-Man Operation

“You have a client who clearly thinks he has a better idea of how things should work than the lawyers who, from time to time, have told him things he doesn’t want to hear,” he added. “He is looking for the guy who can say, ‘I know how to handle Mueller, I know you think he is bad, and we’ll take care of it.’ Problem is you can’t find that lawyer because no one will be able to do that.”

People close to the president say the upheaval in the legal team was inevitable. When Mr. Kasowitz took the lead after Mr. Mueller was appointed in May, he wanted to follow a model used by Mr. Clinton, with a separate team of lawyers and communications professionals handling issues related to the inquiry, so that the White House staff could keep its distance.

But Mr. Trump, who trusts few people and considers himself his best lawyer, spokesman and strategist, never wanted that type of system. As a result, his legal and public relations strategies have been out of sync, with the president at times publicly contradicting his lawyers, and the White House often finding itself flat-footed in the face of new disclosures about the Russia investigation.

The president’s decision has also exposed many of his aides, leaving them deeply enmeshed in an inquiry that is likely to cost them tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

But while Mr. Trump has struggled to find lawyers, his family and his close associates are being represented by some of the country’s top legal talent.

His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has hired Abbe Lowell, a longtime Washington lawyer who recently got the Justice Department to drop corruption charges against Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, after a lengthy court fight.

Three prominent current and former White House officials — the former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon; the former chief of staff, Reince Priebus; and the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn — are being represented by William A. Burck, who turned down the chance to represent the president. Mr. Burck, a former federal prosecutor, represented FIFA in its legal problems in the United States and has worked for high-profile witnesses in federal investigations, including Maureen McDonnell, the wife of a former Virginia governor.