Trump stokes infighting among his own lawyers. His former attorney says "legally that is suicidal"

Trump's legal defense team "plagued by infighting" — of former president's own making, Wall Street Journal reports

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published March 29, 2023 11:07AM (EDT)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Donald Trump's legal team has been "plagued by infighting" — and the former president has continued to stoke tensions among his attorneys even as he faces multiple local and federal criminal investigations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Manhattan district attorney is investigating Trump's role in wire payments sent to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016, while the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney is probing Trump and his allies' attempts to overturn the state's presidential election results. Special counsel Jack Smith is delving into the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as his role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot. But behind the scenes, Trump's team has "suffered frequent turnover due to clashes over personality and legal strategy," according to WSJ.

In attempts to keep up with Trump's antics, his lawyers have "questioned each other's tactics and competence behind the scenes and have urged contradictory approaches," according to the report.

Trump himself has intentionally stoked the infighting by pitting his attorneys against each other, "at times calling advisers to ask what they think of his legal team's performance and calling other lawyers to ask them to join or replace members of his team," according to the report.

Former Trump White House attorney Ty Cobb asserted that rather than driving a wedge between his attorneys, Trump should focus on finding a leader of the group to streamline different investigations unfolding at once.

"He plays his own captain, and legally that is suicidal," Cobb told WSJ. "His strategy, to the extent there is one, appears totally reactive." 

Chris Kise, one of Trump's lawyers, told the outlet that the report was "sheer nonsense."

"You are working on disparate paths but ultimately everyone is on the same team," he said, adding that Trump's behavior is not so unusual. "Does he listen all the time, no," Kise said. "But in more than 30 years as a lawyer I have never had a client who listens all the time."

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Advisers told The Wall Street Journal that Trump's throng of attorneys envision his current predicament to be steeped in politics as opposed to legality, fearing more for the inconvenience of an indictment amid his 2024 presidential campaign than any potential legal consequences suffered. 

Despite the ostensibly rampant infighting, Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung claimed that the ex-president's campaign is prepared to combat any legal roadblocks in the future.

"This operation has been fine-tuned since 2016," Cheung said. "Dealing with these types of news cycles, you learn to get good at it. We have a full-spectrum response operation on the campaign that can deal with anything that comes our way."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Brief Donald Trump Politics Ty Cobb