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The 5 lawyers you meet in Trumpland
Reputable attorneys want nothing to do with Trump, so he's left with the Lionel Hutzes of the world.
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“Go woke, go broke!” conservatives jeer, as they “cancel” a beer company for being nice to a trans lady one time. But when it comes to lawyers, the white shoe is on the other foot.
Turns out, there’s not a lot of appetite at big firms to associate themselves with Donald Trump and his inner circle. Maybe it’s the client’s penchant for praising Nazis. Or his habit of attacking whichever judge is overseeing his case. Or his tendency to threaten his opponents (see the below post, from the day after his latest indictment). Or it could be the whole insurrection thing.
Mostly, it’s that last one. Conservative powerhouse firms like Jones Day and Porter Wright noped out in late 2020 amid public backlash over their role in Trump’s lawsuits seeking to overturn President Biden’s win. This left Trump in the gnarled hands of Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, leading directly to the events of January 6, 2021.
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After that, it became impossible for Trump to hire counsel at any of the nation’s premiere law firms — even with an infinite supply of PAC money to throw at the problem. In fact, the prestigious firm Foley & Lardner parted ways with partner Cleta Mitchell approximately five minutes after reading in the Washington Post that she’d sat in on the call where Trump tried to strongarm Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into “finding” him an extra 11,780 votes.
For his constant civil suits, Trump relies on a rotating cast of oddball lawyers, like Greta van Susteren’s husband Jon Coale and the infamous Alina Habba who netted herself and her client a million dollars in sanctions in his RICO LOLsuit against Hillary Clinton. Habba then retired to become “legal spokesperson” at Trump’s Save America PAC.
But in the criminal context, there are very few law firms willing to risk the reputational blowback from donning the scarlet MAGA hat. This has forced Trump and his coterie to rely on a small handful of lawyers willing to publicly brand themselves as part of Team Trump.
This would be tolerable if Trump and his goons each wandered off for their own idiotic legal caper, like Peter Navarro who is currently being sued by the DOJ for failing to turn over government emails stored on his encrypted Protonmail account, even while he’s being prosecuted for contempt of Congress because he blew off the January 6 Committee subpoena. But the derp squad likes to commit their crimes together, in what some might call a conspiracy. This puts them in the awkward position of being co-defendants and/or witnesses against each other as the indictments continue to drop. And this awkwardness carries over to their lawyers, who now represent multiple parties with potentially conflicting interests.
Partners in the de facto law firm of MAGA, MAGA, & MAGA, functionally a subsidiary of Trump’s Save America PAC, include:
Stanley Woodward, who represents Trump’s valet Walt Nauta in the documents case. Previously he represented Trump’s econ crank Navarro, his press flack Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel, a White House aide who was ordered to testify to the documents grand jury after making public claims that Trump had declassified all the records at Mar-a-Lago.
Jim Trusty and John Rowley, who represented Trump with respect to the documents and January 6 grand juries and who both quit when the first federal indictment was filed.
Evan Corcoran, who previously represented Trump, but was forced to withdraw after Trump lied to him about the location of government documents at Mar-a-Lago and induced him to draft a false declaration saying that a diligent search had been conducted, according to the documents indictment.
Christina Bobb, a relatively inexperienced lawyer who has not entered her appearance on any cases, but who signed the false declaration drafted by Corcoran and testified about it to the grand jury.
John Irving, who represents recently added documents co-defendant Carlos De Oliveira. Irving previously represented Stephen Miller, Rep. Scott Perry, and the aforementioned Mitchell, a lawyer on the infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger.
Tim Parlatore, who previously represented Trump and currently represents Bernie Kerik, a witness before the January 6 grand jury and former NYC police commissioner.
Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general who was paid $3 million to leave his position at the aforementioned Foley & Lardner and who now represents Trump in the documents case as well as the civil suit in New York.
Todd Blanche, who represented Trump’s advisor Boris Epshteyn before the grand juries, and now represents Trump in all three pending criminal cases.
John Lauro, who previously represented Christina Bobb and Alina Habba before the grand jury, and who now represents Trump in the January 6 case. His TV interviews over the past week about the January 6 indictment have been such a disasterclass that the government is already citing his comments in court filings (check out the below video for an example).
It’s a little … incestuous. But actually, it’s worse than that, as Special Counsel Jack Smith revealed in a motion filed last week in the Southern District of Florida requesting a Garcia hearing.
The purpose of a Garcia hearing is to ensure that the defendant has knowingly and voluntarily waived any conflicts which may arise from a lawyer who represents multiple parties or witnesses in his case. Here the government alleges that, in addition to representing Walt Nauta, Woodward “has represented at least seven other individuals who have been questioned in connection with the investigation. Those individuals include the director of information technology for Mar-a-Lago (identified in the superseding indictment as Trump Employee 4) and two individuals who worked for Trump during his presidency and afterwards (hereafter Witness 1 and Witness 2).”
RELATED FROM PN: Trump's aggressive legal strategies keep backfiring spectacularly
“Trump Employee 4” is Yuscil Taveras, the Mar-a-Lago IT guy who refused Trump’s request to delete the surveillance footage which would have shown Nauta and De Oliveira moving Trump’s “beautiful mind boxes” in and out of the storage locker before Corcoran searched it for classified records.
The government writes:
In February and March 2023, the Government informed Mr. Woodward, orally and in writing, that his concurrent representation of Trump Employee 4 and Nauta raised a potential conflict of interest. The Government specifically informed Mr. Woodward that the Government believed Trump Employee 4 had information that would incriminate Nauta. Mr. Woodward informed the Government that he was unaware of any testimony that Trump Employee 4 would give that would incriminate Nauta and had advised Trump Employee 4 and Nauta of the Government’s position about a possible conflict. According to Mr. Woodward, he did not have reason to believe his concurrent representation of Trump Employee 4 and Nauta raised a conflict of interest.
Trump Employee 4 retained new counsel on July 5, 2023, and on July 27, 2023, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment adding Carlos De Oliveira as a defendant and charging all three defendants with obstruction-of-justice offenses stemming from their attempt to have Trump Employee 4 delete security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago.
There are a lot of ways you could read that passage, and none of them makes Woodward look good. Taveras’s new counsel says that his client “does not intend to waive his rights to confidentiality, loyalty, and conflict-free representation with respect to his earlier representation by Mr. Woodward,” which is lawspeak for “Mr. Woodward cannot cross examine the most important witness in this case at trial, even if Nauta agrees to it.”
As for the other two potential witnesses, they could be Scavino and Patel, or possibly Trump’s aide Margo Martin, who recorded the interview with Mark Meadows’s biographers, in which Trump is alleged to have waved around a classified plan to invade Iran. The government writes:
Witness 1 worked in the White House during Trump’s presidency and then subsequently worked for Trump’s post-presidential office in Florida. Mr. Woodward has represented Witness 1 in connection with this case and, to the Government’s knowledge, continues to do so.
Witness 2 worked for Trump’s reelection campaign and worked for Trump’s political action committee after Trump’s presidency ended. Mr. Woodward has represented Witness 2 in connection with this case and, to the Government’s knowledge, continues to do so.
Prosecutors have requested a hearing before Judge Aileen Cannon in the presence of Nauta and both witnesses to probe the issue of concurrent representation, presumably as a prelude to seeking Woodward’s disqualification. As of this writing, Judge Cannon has ordered briefing on the issue in a truly bizarre order which may or may not signal the start of a campaign to undermine this prosecution.
And indeed the potential conflicts are not confined to the documents case. As noted above, Todd Blanche was brought into Trumpland by his client Boris Epshteyn, who was widely reported to have been one of the planners of the fake electors plot. Epshteyn is almost certainly co-conspirator 6, the “political consultant who helped implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding” described in the January 6 indictment. There may also be a problem regarding Lauro’s representation of Bobb, who is almost certainly going to be called as a witness in the documents case because of her role in the false declaration.
And those are just the relationships we know about! The odds seem pretty yuuuuge that if Stan Woodward was representing multiple parties questioned by the special counsel, so was his fellow MAGA lawyer John Irving.
Moreover, the fact that Trump’s PAC is paying all these lawyers may present a conflict of its own. Trump just settled a lawsuit with Michael Cohen, who alleged that the Trump Organization promised to pay his legal fees in connection with Mueller investigation, but reneged on the deal after Cohen flipped and testified against Trump. Similarly, January 6 witness Cassidy Hutchinson testified that her first lawyer Stefan Passantino, who was paid by Trump’s allies, encouraged her to lie to protect Trump. Like Taveras, her story changed when she got outside counsel.
Worse still, Trump campaign official Susie Wiles is the one deciding whose lawyers are going to get paid. The Washington Post reports:
Witnesses have told prosecutors that Susie Wiles, the head of Trump’s political action committee, has made decisions on whose legal bills should be funded, according to people familiar with the matter, but that Trump reviewed the bills and occasionally offered his opinion during 2021 and 2022. Trump would sometimes ask why certain people had been subpoenaed and how they fit into an investigation, these people said.
Wiles, who testified to the grand jury, is reportedly the “PAC representative” in the indictment to whom Trump showed a classified map taken from the White House, making her a likely witness in the documents case. She’s also alleged to have been on a Signal group chat in which Nauta confirmed that De Oliveira was “loyal,” after which Trump promised to pay for De Oliveira’s lawyer.
Just over two weeks after the FBI discovered classified documents in the Storage Room and TRUMP's office, on August 26, 2022, NAUTA called Trump Employee 5 and said words to the effect of, "someone just wants to make sure Carlos is good." In response, Trump Employee 5 told NAUTA that DE OLIVEIRA was loyal and that DE OLIVEIRA would not do anything to affect his relationship with TRUMP. That same day, at NAUTA's request, Trump Employee 5 confirmed in a Signal chat group with NAUTA and the PAC Representative that DE OLIVEIRA was loyal. That same day, TRUMP called DE OLIVEIRA and told DE OLIVEIRA that TRUMP would get DE OLIVEIRA an attorney.
In short, as with the mob, there are only a handful of lawyers willing to work with Trump and his associates. And again, as with the mob, Trump exploits this arrangement to keep his henchmen in line.
Now we wait to see if Judge Cannon and Judge Chutkan are going to let them get away with it.
That’s it for today
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