Growing Discord Among Trump’s Lawyers Could Weaken His Defense as Jack Smith Raises the Heat

Amid intensifying Mar-a-Lago probe,Dershowitz recalls how O.J.’s legal ‘Dream Team’ became a ‘Nightmare.’

AP/Rebecca Blackwell, file
President Trump arrives at Mar-a-Lago, November 18, 2022, at Palm Beach, Florida. AP/Rebecca Blackwell, file

News of dissension within President Trump’s legal team threatens to weaken the former president just as the special counsel, Jack Smith, appears to be readying to hand up charges. The appearance of these fault lines suggests that among Mr. Trump’s myriad challenges are managing his own attorneys.

Mr. Trump, who has long been known for hiring and firing lawyers at a staccato cadence, has already been charged by District Attorney Alvin Bragg and faces the possibility of more charges emerging from Mr. Smith’s investigations as well as from District Attorney Fani Willis’s in Georgia. A significant civil case at New York looms, too. Mr. Trump’s legal retinue has ballooned accordingly. 

The weekend saw the resignation of Timothy Parlatore, who was working on the Department of Justices investigation into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Another one of Mr. Trump’s former attorneys, Ty Cobb, describes that inquiry as a “tight case” that will send Mr. Trump “to jail.” 

Mr. Parlatore’s departure was not on good terms. He told CNN that the “real reason” he left was “because there are certain individuals that made defending the president much harder than it needed to be.” He explained that it was “difficult enough fighting against the DOJ” without the kind of infighting that rendered him unable to “do what I need to do as a lawyer.”  

Mr. Parlatore added: “There is one individual who works for him, Boris Epshteyn, who had really done everything he could to try to block us, to prevent us from doing what we could to defend the president.” According to Mr. Parlatore, Mr. Epshteyn, a long-time adviser to Mr. Trump, “served as a kind of a filter.”

Mr. Parlatore appeared to suggest that Mr. Epshtyn prevented his colleagues from conducting further searches at Mar-a-Lago to ascertain how many classified documents had yet to be returned. Mr. Parlatore described being “undermined” by “people within the tent” set on disabling him from doing what “I know that I need to do as a lawyer.” 

Mr. Trump’s campaign struck back, releasing a statement to the effect that “Mr. Parlatore is no longer a member of the legal team. His statements regarding current members of the legal team are unfounded and categorically false.” Mr. Parlatore — unlike Mr. Cobb — did predict, though, that Mr. Trump would not ultimately be charged.

Another one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, Evan Corcoran, is at the center of the Mar-a-Lago investigation. Mr. Smith compelled him to testify before a grand jury despite his protestations of executive privilege, a procedural outcome that could grant the prosecutor an intimate view of the case. He is no longer advising Mr. Trump on the matter.    

Now, the Guardian reports that Mr. Corcoran warned Mr. Trump that he could not keep classified materials, an admission that could speak to the former president’s intent to obstruct their recovery. It was Mr. Corcoran who first found 40 classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. A subsequent FBI search found more than 100, including some marked “Top Secret.”     

The Sun spoke to a litigator and professor, Alan Dershowitz, who is not sanguine about the cohesiveness of large legal teams stuffed with robust egos. He was on what could be the most notorious one of all, the “Dream Team” convened to represent the former football player Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson during his trial for murder.

Mr. Dershowitz reflects that the “Nightmare Team” would have been a more apt name for that group, which included himself, Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, and others. It was riven, Mr. Dershowitz discloses, by backbiting and diverging agendas, with everyone trying to get approval” from the Hall of Fame running back.

Mr. Dershowitz relates that when he made his “Senate argument on behalf of the Constitution” during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial — in effect, representing the president — he insisted that he “didn’t want a group effort or a committee” and that no eyes beside his own would see the text of his address during the trial.  

Referencing the efforts of a Tom Cruise character, Ethan Hunt, to put together a squad in the “Mission Impossible” franchise, Mr. Dershowitz explained that now, “When I get involved in a case, I assemble the team.”

The New York Sun

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