Donald Trump’s legal team reportedly has so much internal conflict that it could actually hinder its ability to defend the former president for his alleged mishandling of classified documents.
The infighting began soon after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago last August, but the division only came to light when Trump’s lawyer Tim Parlatore abruptly quit two weeks ago. Parlatore’s main reason for leaving was irreconcilable differences with Trump’s senior adviser and in-house counsel, Boris Epshteyn.
Most of the problems stem from a lack of trust on the team, The Guardian reported Thursday. The lawyers don’t trust each other and especially not Epshteyn, because they felt he micromanaged them and blocked direct access to Trump.
Some of the lawyers reportedly agreed to quit in solidarity if Parlatore were fired. Parlatore and another lawyer, Jim Trusty, disliked Epshteyn so much that they began withholding information from him.
Trusty chafed at having to run all of his decisions by Epshteyn first, according to a Guardian reporter who overheard him complaining last August. Trusty felt Epshteyn was not a trial lawyer and focused too much on Trump’s P.R. issues, not legal ones.
Parlatore has accused Epshteyn of attempting to block searches of Trump’s properties for classified documents. And both Parlatore and Trusty were frustrated by the fact that Epshteyn was usually included in any phone calls with Trump. They felt Epshteyn was misleading Trump about the state of the lawsuit.
It got to the point that the pair began withholding information from Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran because they worried he would brief Epshteyn without their knowledge. But that hobbled the team’s ability to build a defense, as the different factions had no clue what the others were doing.
Parlatore and Corcoran have since testified in front of the grand jury investigating Trump’s decision to keep classified documents. Special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation, also interviewed Epshteyn in April.
As it turns out, not only were the lawyers hiding things from each other, but Trump was hiding things from his lawyers. A judge ruled in March that some of Trump’s attorney-client privileges could be “pierced” after prosecutors for Smith’s team found that Trump intentionally misled his own lawyers about keeping classified materials when he left office. New reports have revealed that Trump knew he wasn’t supposed to keep classified documents and that he couldn’t automatically declassify them, but he hid the papers anyway.
Smith has not yet issued any criminal charges, but he seems to be circling ever closer to Trump. And that’s not even the end of the former president’s legal troubles. Trump is also under investigation in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He has been indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels.
Trump was found civilly liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll—and last week, she sued him for defamation again over comments he made about her during a CNN town hall. So his legal team should probably start working together pretty soon.