Former President Donald Trump and his team have spent days since the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago trying to assemble a "team of respected lawyers" but keep getting rejected, according to The Washington Post.
"Everyone is saying no," a prominent Republican lawyer told the outlet.
Trump is scrambling to find an experienced team of attorneys to defend him amid mounting legal crises. The Justice Department is investigating him under the Espionage Act after he took classified records, including some labeled "top secret," to his Mar-a-Lago residence. He also faces legal scrutiny in the DOJ's investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, as well as a state civil probe in New York and a Fulton County, Ga., criminal investigation into his efforts to overturn his loss in the state.
Jon Sale, a former Watergate prosecutor who is now a prominent Florida defense attorney, told the Post he turned Trump down last week.
"You have to evaluate whether you want to take it," he said. "It's not like a DUI. It's representing the former president of the United States — and maybe the next one — in what's one of the highest-visibility cases ever."
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich defended the quality of the former president's legal team, noting that it also includes former federal prosecutors Evan Corcoran, who represented former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in his losing battle against the DOJ, and James Trusty, who was behind Trump's letter threatening a highly dubious defamation lawsuit against CNN for describing his election lies as lies.
"The President's lead counsel in relation to the raid of his home, Jim Trusty and Evan Corcoran, have decades of prosecutorial experience and have litigated some of the most complex cases in American history," Budowich told the Post. "President Trump is represented by some of the strongest attorneys in the country, and any suggestion otherwise is only driven by envy."
While Corcoran and Trusty submitted filings in the case, Trump's other attorneys have been tasked with making his case to the public in media appearances.
The most visible Trump attorney has been Christina Bobb, a former anchor at the right-wing outlet OAN, where she pushed election conspiracy theories that got the network sued by defamation by Dominion Voting Systems. Bobb's federal legal experience is largely limited to a "handful of trademark infringement cases on behalf of CrossFit" while she worked for a law firm in San Diego, according to the Post. Bobb has already undermined Trump's baseless claim that the FBI may have "planted" evidence during the search while no one was looking, revealing that Trump and his family were able to watch the entire raid through CCTV.
Trump's other Florida-based lawyer is Lindsey Halligan, a Florida insurance lawyer that handles residential and commercial claims but has never handled a federal case.
Trump's other attorney in the documents investigation is Alina Habba, who has a small practice near Trump's Bedminster, N.J., golf club. She previously worked as general counsel at a parking garage company. Habba has also represented Trump in his dubious lawsuits against the New York Times, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and his niece, Mary Trump.
The New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted that this is Trump's seventh or eighth legal team since he became president.
"Finding a new one has been a challenge amid his desire to treat this as a short term PR issue as opposed to a longer term legal one," she wrote.
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The New York Times reported last week that one of Trump's lawyers signed a statement in June certifying that Trump had returned all classified documents to the National Archives after a grand jury subpoena was issued in the case. Investigators subsequently learned from inside sources that there were still classified documents at the resort. It's unclear which of Trump's attorneys signed the document.
"You get these guys who just live to be around him, and mistakes get made," an unnamed attorney told the Post. "These guys just want to make him happy."
"Either the attorney acted in good faith on what turned out to be false factual representations made by Mr. Trump or someone else communicating on his behalf, in which case Mr. Trump or his proxy would have criminal jeopardy for false statements or obstruction of justice, or the attorney knowingly gave false assurances to the government," David Laufman, the former head of the DOJ's counterintelligence division, told the Post. "And it's hard to believe that a lawyer knowingly would have lied to the government about the continued presence of classified documents."
Trump, who has faced myriad legal scandals from two impeachments to local criminal investigations, has repeatedly struggled to find elite attorneys to represent him.
"In olden days, he would tell firms representing him was a benefit because they could advertise off it. Today it's not the same," former Trump lawyer-turned-critic Michael Cohen told the Post. "He's also a very difficult client in that he's always pushing the envelope, he rarely listens to sound legal advice, and he wants you to do things that are not appropriate, ethically or legally."
Another attorney recalled Trump's legal team urging him to avoid tweeting about the Mueller investigation early in his presidency only to see a tweet about it before they even got to the end of the White House driveway. "Several people said Trump was nearly impossible to represent and that it would be unclear if they would ever get paid," the Post reported.
"This is not good," one Trump confidant told the outlet. "Something big is going to pop. Somebody needs to be in charge."