Trump Legal Team Struggles to Recruit – Rolling Stone

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Donald Trump could be days away from another indictment, but as a third set of criminal charges looms, he’s struggling to recruit lawyers to defend him, three sources familiar with the situation tell Rolling Stone.

In recent weeks, the Trump team has tried, with mixed results, to bring aboard new lawyers to defend against an expected indictment over Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 Capitol attack — even as Special Counsel Jack Smith has signaled his office is ready to bring charges.

The recruiting effort has been fraught for several reasons. Trump, the people familiar with the matter say, is an infamously difficult client. One attorney who was approached about work declined, telling Rolling Stone they were dissuaded by the lengthy track record of Trump’s personal lawyers suddenly finding themselves in legal jeopardy while working for Trump. Some attorneys who’ve discussed the investigation with Trump and his close associates believe the case is a certain loser for the defense, arguing, among other things, that Trump’s loss at the initial trial is a foregone conclusion in Washington, D.C.

The district is a deep-blue area and still carries the memory of the Jan. 6 attack. And in the past several weeks, some of Donald Trump’s top legal and political advisers have been privately calling the job of defending Trump against an indictment in the election 2020 case a “suicide mission.”

Other lawyers approached about joining, according to two of the sources, were initially receptive before pulling out because of concerns from their peers. Partners at their respective firms objected to taking on Trump as a client, arguing the firm would lose other clients as a result. Those concerns have been a big part of why Team Trump has hit a brick wall while trying to entice big-name law firms to join his cause.

Even high-profile lawyers who continue to defend Trump publicly aren’t signing up for this one. As Rolling Stone reported last month, Alan Dershowitz — the celebrity attorney who was part of then-President Trump’s defense for his first impeachment — “has been declining recurring offers from Trump and his advisers to rep the ex-president in different cases since 2021,” and did so again as recently as June. The recruiting struggles come after Trump lost several lawyers last month when his legal team for the Mar-a-Lago documents case imploded. These attorneys had also been working on legal strategy for a possible Jan. 6-related indictment.

But even as his legal team looks to staff up, their client is focused on turning a potential trial into an opportunity to relitigate his bogus election fraud theories. Trump has privately told members of his team this summer that, should prosecutors bring a Jan. 6-related case against him, he wants the trial to be used as a platform to promote his false claim to have won in 2020, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. Additionally, Trump has said that during the trial — which he’s hoping will be televised — his lawyers should display “proof” of Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

The developments highlight the continuing legal peril Trump faces as the special counsel’s second investigation heats up. The special counsel’s office sent Trump a target letter last week indicating that the grand jury was investigating him for conspiracy to commit a crime or defraud the U.S., obstruction, and conspiracy against rights. Over the past few months, investigators from Smith’s office have focused on Trump’s role in the efforts to pressure Mike Pence to throw out electoral votes from battleground states and replace them with slates of bogus pro-Trump electors.

According to three sources familiar with the situation, the former president and his allies privately argue that Trump’s chances in this case if brought before a judge and jury in the overwhelmingly Democratic Washington, DC — where a potential trial is expected to occur — are slim. Team Trump’s anxieties over likely losing in the nation’s capital mirror Trump’s lawyers’ early warnings to him that he should be prepared to lose the initial trial to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and hope to win it on appeal.

Since 2021, Trump has at times retained legal counsel who have been squeamish about parroting Trump’s easily debunked lies about election “FRAUD,” and have often tried to work around the ex-president’s demands for wild bluster.

However, Trump may not have that problem with his new, and still-forming, legal team handling the special counsel’s Jan. 6 probe. 

The legal strategy currently taking form at the top ranks of Trumpworld is currently leaning heavily on the kind of calculated hostility, brashness, and media spectacle that the former president has long relished, the sources familiar with the situation tell Rolling Stone

Already, the newest addition to this legal team — John Lauro, the one attorney who was announced last week — has demonstrated a public willingness to do just that. (Lauro and other top Trump attorneys did not respond to messages and calls seeking comment on this story.)

In an appearance on Fox News last week, Lauro insinuated that the special counsel’s fast-moving grand jury investigation of Trump was an attempt to distract from Congressional Republicans’ corruption allegations against President Biden and President Trump’s poll numbers.

“On Sunday night, the [former] president gets an invitation to appear before a grand jury in the same week that Joe Biden is ensnarled in a massive bribery allegation at the same time that [former] President Trump is leading in the polls. Something is going on here that’s not quite right,” Lauro said during the cable television segment.

He argued that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election was justified by “all of these election discrepancies and irregularities going on” and that there should be “cameras in the courtroom so all Americans can see what’s happening in our criminal justice system.” 

Federal courts have generally banned the use of cameras in the courtroom. While individual judges may authorize them in certain circumstances, their use is rare.  


It’s unclear how a legal strategy that sought to litigate the results of the 2020 election would play out in the Washington, DC district court, where judges can sometimes display little patience with attorneys.

Judges in Washington, D.C.’s federal district court have presided over a number of January 6-related cases and shown little willingness to allow cases to turn into broader political fights over the 2020 election. In cases ranging from Steve Bannon’s defiance of a congressional subpoena to rioters seeking to call, federal judges in Washington, DC have warned they would reject any attempts to turn courtrooms into a “political circus” and blocked attempts to call Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and others as witnesses in the case of accused rioters.

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