“Suicide mission”: Trump reportedly turned down by lawyers because his “case is a certain loser”

"Infamously difficult client" Trump is struggling to replace top attorneys who abruptly resigned last month

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published July 27, 2023 8:49AM (EDT)

Donald Trump (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump is struggling to find enough lawyers to defend him in a mounting number of legal cases, according to Rolling Stone.

Trump, who has been indicted in connection to the 2016 campaign hush-money payments in Manhattan and the Mar-a-Lago documents case, faces potential indictments for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in D.C. and Georgia. But Trump's effort to recruit new lawyers to defend him has been "fraught," in part because Trump is an "infamously difficult client," sources told the outlet.

One attorney who turned down Trump told Rolling Stone they were dissuaded by the long track record of Trump's lawyers finding themselves in their own legal jeopardy. Other attorneys who have discussed the case with Trump believe the Jan. 6 "case is a certain loser for the defense," according to the report. Given that the trial would be held in deep-blue D.C., even some of Trump's top legal and political advisers have privately called the job of defending Trump a "suicide mission," the report added.

Other lawyers have approached the Trump team themselves and were "initially receptive" before "pulling out because of concerns from their peers," according to the report, which added that partners at some firms objected to taking on the former president as a client because it could cost them other clients.

Even attorney Alan Dershowitz, who was part of Trump's first impeachment defense team, has repeatedly declined offers to join Trump's team, including as recently as last month.

Trump's struggles began in June when several top attorneys handling the Mar-a-Lago case and a legal strategy for a possible Jan. 6-related indictment abruptly resigned.

Trump in private has also teased to his legal team that he wants to use any potential Jan. 6 trial to push his widely debunked election fraud claims and wants his lawyers to show "proof" that the election was stolen.

"We'll have fun on the stand with all of these people that say the Presidential Election wasn't Rigged and Stollen [sic]," Trump wrote on Truth Social Wednesday.

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Trump last week did add attorney John Lauro, who previously represented Trump lawyers Christina Bobb and Alina Habba when they drew their own legal scrutiny. Lauro in an interview on Fox News quickly pushed claims that the target letter special counsel Jack Smith sent to Trump was timed to distract from the Republicans' dubious bribery allegations against President Joe Biden. He also claimed that Trump's effort to overturn the election was justified by "all of these election discrepancies and irregularities going on."

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team, told MSNBC on Wednesday that Trump's struggle to recruit attorneys is "one of his own making."

"As a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer, I really believe every defendant is entitled to legal representation. They are entitled to have zealous advocacy," he said, adding that Trump's "exalted position" as former president would typically surround him with "the very cream of the crop in terms of the caliber of lawyering."

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"The reason that you don't see that with Donald Trump is because of his own making. If you are asking your lawyer to commit a crime, which is the allegation in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, that is not something that endears you to get to deciding, 'oh, gee, this is someone I want to represent,' at least normal defense lawyers," Weissmann explained.

"All of that means that you're buying just a heap of trouble when you have a client who doesn't listen to your advice and just goes about doing his own business, up to and including continuing to commit crimes that he wants you to be a part of," he added. "And so that is the reason that you find so many lawyers unwilling to represent him, even though he used to be the President of the United States, which is a very sad state."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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