Two of Donald Trump’s top lawyers abruptly resigned from his defense team on Friday, just hours after news broke that he and a close aide were indicted on charges related to their handling of classified documents.
Jim Trusty and John Rowley, who helmed Trump’s Washington, D.C.-based legal team for months and were seen frequently at the federal courthouse, indicated they would no longer represent Trump in matters being investigated and prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith, who is probing both the documents matter and efforts by Trump to subvert the 2020 election.
The resignations were shortly followed by an announcement from Trump himself confirming that a close aide, Walt Nauta, had also been indicted by federal prosecutors. Nauta, a Navy veteran, had served as the former president’s personal aide and was a ubiquitous presence during his post White House days.
In their place, Trump indicated that Todd Blanche — an attorney he recently retained to help fight unrelated felony charges brought by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg in April — would lead his legal team, along with a firm to be named later. Trump and his team have liked Blanche, who is expected to play a more elevated, central role.
Though Trump has had shakeups of his legal teams before, the current changes deprive Trump of some of his most seasoned legal hands at the most perilous moment of his legal travails. And it follows the recent departure of a third lawyer who had helped guide Trump’s defense in the documents matter: Tim Parlatore, who cited internal disagreement, particularly with longtime Trump hand Boris Epshteyn, as his reason for abruptly quitting.
One potential silver lining for Trump: The case appears to have been initially directed toward U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, who handled his lawsuit last year after the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago estate. Cannon, a Trump appointee to the federal bench, raised eyebrows with her unorthodox rulings sharply in Trump’s favor that were ultimately reversed by a panel of an appeals court.
Two people close to Trump did not dispute that Cannon would potentially oversee the case and said they were pleased by the possibility.
Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.