Why Did Donald Trump Lose His ‘Billion Dollar Lawyer’ Drew Findling? – Rolling Stone

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Last month, when Donald Trump parted ways with “Billion Dollar Lawyer” Drew Findling as his lead criminal defense attorney in the Fulton County, Georgia, case, the decision was then met with surprise and dismay, including among some of Trump’s closest advisers and lawyers. 

At first, the reasons behind the departure were opaque, with several high-ranking members of Team Trump asking one another why the ex-president would ditch someone who was internally viewed as perhaps Trump’s single most competent attorney. Findling was in the middle of leading the legal defense against the one prosecution that is likely the most perilous for Trump — and the lawyer was replaced just as the former president was about to have his historic mug shot taken in Georgia. 

But as the dust settled, some of the reasons behind this shakeup became clearer. According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, the high-profile departure was largely driven by the same kind of power struggles that have long plagued Trump’s legal teams, even (or, especially) during times when Trump is trying his hardest to stay out of prison. Those problems only intensified when it became clear that Fulton County prosecutors were going to pursue a wide-ranging indictment of Trump and many of his confidants; it was the kind of nightmare scenario that Findling, well-known for his successful defenses of Cardi B and Offset, was hired to attempt to prevent.

The sources say that the problems stemmed in part from the tensions between Boris Epstheyn, a senior advisor to Trump who has also acted as an in-house counsel to the former president throughout the various criminal cases against him, and Findling.

One of these sources tells Rolling Stone that tensions arose over the fact that “Boris [Epshteyn] did not control him.” 

This source adds that the tense working relationship between Epshteyn and Findling was evident to many within MAGA circles. “It was pretty well known,” this person says. Findling’s impending departure became apparent to others weeks before his announced departure in August as Epstheyn began a search for another Atlanta criminal defense attorney, according to the sources.

One Trump advisor disputed the reports of tensions between the two attorneys, and pointed instead to the strength and reputation of the team’s current lead attorney in the Georgia case, Steve Sadow, as the reason for the transition. 

Like Findling, Sadow has experience representing celebrities, including the rapper Gunna, who have faced conspiracy charges in Fulton County. After word of Findling’s departure leaked in August, Sadow joined the legal team as lead attorney. (Jennifer Little, another Georgia criminal defense attorney who worked alongside Findling on the legal team, has stayed on.) 

Findling represented a smart choice for defending Trump in the Fulton County conspiracy case. A former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, he has represented a number of celebrity clients in Atlanta facing charges under Georgia’s RICO and conspiracy statutes, including rapper YFN Lucci. 

“He is insightful and one of the finest lawyers I’ve ever dealt with,” says L. David Wolfe, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney who has known Findling since 1989 and represented Trump associates charged in the Fulton County case like Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman. “He is somebody that can convince a jury and also charm a jury.”

Findling also lent credibility to the newfound complaints among MAGA supporters about Fulton County prosecutors aggressive use of the conspiracy laws. Long before Fulton County charged Trump, Findling was frequent critic of the Georgia RICO statute, telling reporters that “we’ve exaggerated what RICO is Atlanta” and calling the law “completely fucking racist.”  

But as the months dragged on, fissures between Findling and some of Trump’s other lawyers began to emerge. A small group of Trump loyalists —  such as Epstheyn — would argue to the former president that Findling was not a team player, that he couldn’t be completely trusted to defend the ex-president, and that he was “anti-Trump,” according to those familiar with the matter. 

(It is a matter of public record that Findling has politically liberal views, and that he has publicly posted harshly negative tweets about Trump before representing him. Findling has consistently stated that his personal political beliefs aren’t relevant to his job of representing his clients.)

And as it became apparent that the Trump legal team would be unable to stop a Fulton County indictment of Trump on his election-rigging efforts, internal displeasure with Findling’s work and style deepened. For instance, Trump, Epstheyn, and some others in the inner circle grew frustrated with Findling’s apparent unwillingness to wage on the kind of flamboyant, scorched-earth pre-trial strategy that Trump often demands of his lawyers and aides in these cases, sources recount.

This decidedly Trumpian approach would have included embracing, or at least entertaining the former president’s anti-democratic lies about the 2020 election being “stolen” from him. It would have also included Findling and Trump’s Georgia legal team embarking on a mud-slinging, all-out campaign for the past year, such as aggressively assailing the character of Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis and others involved. “It just wasn’t the right fit,” one of the sources familiar with the situation says.

A spokesperson for Findling declined to answer questions from Rolling Stone or make him available for an interview.

Asked for comment, a Trump spokesman wrote in a statement that “The Trump legal team is completely aligned in battling these illegal and un-Constitutional witch-hunts.” They added that “Those who are actually on the team are focused on the work necessary to ensure that President Trump is vindicated across the board, and that the corrupt hoaxes aimed at interfering with the 2024 Presidential Election will fail.”

The tension in the Fulton County case echoes similar feuds that led to the unraveling of Trump’s legal team representing him in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.

As Rolling Stone reported in June, Epstheyn repeatedly clashed with other top Trump attorneys, including Jim Trusty, John Rowley, and Timothy Parlatore over control of Trump’s legal defense. Parlatore’s frustration became so great he resigned from the legal team in April, citing frustration with Epshteyn and his belief that the attorney hampered his ability to defend Trump.

Asked on Wednesday about Rolling Stone’s reporting on tensions between Findling and Epshteyn, Parlatore responded: “It does not surprise me.”


Perhaps the Findling-Trump match was bound to end poorly. Trump has been keen to turn any court case about the 2020 election into an opportunity to re-air his bogus conspiracy theories about election fraud. As Rolling Stone reported in July, he has pressed lawyers in his Washington, DC election interference case to parrot his election lies and use any trial to display “proof” that the election was stolen.

While attorneys like John Lauro have eagerly taken up that challenge, Findling never endorsed Trump’s election fraud narrative in his limited public comments about the case. In a rare comment on the case during an appearance MSNBC, Findling instead explicitly stated that he didn’t want to “start getting into political statements” when discussing Trump’s plight in Fulton County.

Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/trump-fulton-county-drew-findling-1234829429/

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