What to Know About the Washington Lawyer Vetting Trump’s Potential VPs

The man and the method behind Trump 'veepstakes'

“What’s your bottom line?” McCain asked Culvahouse, about Palin.

“John -- high risk, high reward,” said Culvahouse.

“You shouldn’t have told me that,” McCain replied. “I’ve been a risk-taker all my life.”

“The only people who are not interested in being the V.P. pick are the people who have not been asked!” Trump tweeted last week regarding media speculation about his running mate.

The law firm O’Melveny and Myers, where Culvahouse is partner, referred all questions regarding his involvement to the Trump campaign.

According to his remarks at the 2009 National Press Club appearance, Culvahouse said he and McCain had three rules for the vetting process eight years ago: First, that McCain would ultimately make the decision; second, that there would be no one between Culvahouse and McCain -— no committee or special team that might disrupt the vetting process; and finally, that McCain would not pick anyone Culvahouse had not formally vetted.

But Ted Frank, an attorney who vetted Palin with Culvahouse in 2008, told ABC News that this time, Culvahouse faces two very different factors: A time crunch and a candidate and campaign unlike McCain’s.

“With the McCain campaign they had been working on it for six, seven, eight months before the convention and here, Mr. Culvahouse was brought in two months before the convention,” Frank said in an interview. “By that point 80 percent of the vetting had already been done for McCain.”

Part of that vetting process involves an extensive questionnaire that reveals strengths, weaknesses, and any potential pitfalls so the candidate can weigh each pro and con. In 1976, the questionnaire for Ford’s vice president search included 16 questions. In 2008, it included almost 80, with questions on private matters like infidelity and addiction. Culvahouse interviews the potential V.P.s and small teams of lawyers write a formal report with their findings for the presidential candidate and a select group of campaign officials, according to Frank.

But with a candidate like Trump, Frank speculated that the vetting process may not weigh as heavily in the final selection.

“Donald Trump might not care that Newt Gingrich has two divorces because he has two divorces. But on the other hand, some other political person might worry that having two candidates with so many divorces leads to more attention on each of the candidates divorces,” Frank said. “So, it could cut either way.”