Trump’s Lawyers Start to Wonder if One Could Be a Snitch

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty
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With three anticipated indictments, two ongoing court cases, and an ever-expanding cadre of lawyers, former President Donald Trump is at a critical juncture—and yet his legal advisers are starting to turn on each other.

According to five sources with direct knowledge of the situation, clashing personalities and the increasing outside threat of law enforcement has sown deep divisions that have only worsened in recent months. The internal bickering has already sparked one departure in recent weeks—and that could be just the beginning.

As Trump’s legal troubles keep growing—with criminal and civil investigations in New York City, Washington, and Atlanta—so too does the unwieldy band of attorneys who simply can’t get along.

The cast of characters includes an accused meddler who has Trump’s ear, a young attorney who lawyers on the team suggested is only there because the former president likes the way she looks, and a celebrity lawyer who’s increasingly viewed with disdain. Worst of all, now that federal investigators have turned the interrogation spotlight on some of Trump’s lawyers themselves, defense attorneys on the team seem to be questioning whether their colleagues may actually turn into snitches.

“There’s a lot of lawyers and a lot of jealousy,” said one person on Trump’s legal team, explaining that the sheer number of lawyers protecting a single man accused of so many crimes is without parallel.

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Part of the concern over lawyers turning on each other is due to the fact that the Department of Justice already has one Trump attorney’s professional notes, which could position him as a future witness against his own client, and the DOJ has another lawyer who said too much in an unrelated case and has positioned herself as yet another potential witness against her client.

But much of the anger from Trump’s lawyers is directed at the former president’s right-hand man, Boris Epshteyn, who’s accused of running interference on certain legal advice from more experienced courtroom gladiators.

Epshteyn, who’s a lawyer himself, has risen through the ranks in Trumpworld over the years, first as an adviser for Trump’s 2016 campaign, then as a more senior adviser for 2020, and now part of Trump’s innermost circle for 2024.

Epshteyn seems to have the former president’s supreme confidence, with what’s described as a final say on all matters related to public relations and legal issues. But there’s snickering in the shadows. Several sources ridiculed the way Epshteyn refers to himself as “in-house counsel”—normally a term for a company’s corporate attorney—noting how it echoes the way John Gotti’s mafia lawyer used to describe his services for the infamous Gambino crime family.

Epshteyn’s meddling has particularly affected the lawyers working to defend Trump from Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith and his investigation into whether the former president broke the law when he took top secret documents on his way out of the White House in January 2021 and hoarded them at Mar-a-Lago.

“Boris pissed off all the Florida lawyers. People are dropping like flies. Everybody hates him. He’s a toxic loser. He’s a complete psycho,” said a second person, who could barely contain their anger while discussing the matter. “He’s got daddy issues, and Trump is his daddy.”

A source close to the campaign gave a much kinder assessment of Epshteyn: "He is absolutely focused on protecting President Trump from every angle—legal, political, and media."

Regardless, the infighting came to a head recently, sparking the departure earlier this month of Tim Parlatore, one of the lawyers in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.

Parlatore’s sudden departure from Trump’s legal team came after a never-reported meeting last month at Mar-a-Lago, where several lawyers threatened to leave. According to two sources who described it as “an intervention,” the lawyers handling the case put forward an ultimatum: either Epshteyn goes or they do.

Four sources described how Epshteyn would at times stand guard between Trump and his own defense lawyers, demanding that all communication flow through him. One of these sources noted that Parlatore’s first ever one-on-one meeting with his own client was when the defense lawyer recently submitted his resignation.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters</div>
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

A fifth person who regularly works on legal matters countered the description of Epshteyn as an obstructionist, noting that Trump’s lawyers still have a direct channel to the former president when necessary. But this person acknowledged that Epshteyn plays a pivotal role in screening major issues that fly Trump’s way, much like a public official’s highly defensive chief of staff.

“He does help arrange things. He tries to coordinate. But everybody has Trump’s phone number, and he picks up the phone. And he calls you directly when he feels like it,” this person said.

“Some people don’t like Boris, but most of us are used to having a client to ourselves,” this person continued. “We don’t have other people involved. When there’s all these lawyers, there’s going to be conflict. Different people, different ideas. People feel like Boris is the one who’s deciding things, but it’s not Boris making decisions. I guarantee you that’s Trump not wanting something.”

This source suggested that, at this stage—with three different criminal investigations closing in and multiple trials scheduled to interrupt the election season—it’s inevitable that high-powered lawyers fully capable of representing someone like a former American president would chide at being questioned by someone like Epshteyn. Another person described him as “a really super-smart guy” who still manages to be “obnoxious, vociferous, and bombastic” because “he has a law license.”

“It doesn’t mean he’s really a lawyer,” this person said.

The closest anyone on the team has come to publicly hinting at in-fighting was Parlatore in a CNN appearance last week, in which he blamed Epshteyn for doing “everything he could to try to block us, to prevent us from doing what we could to defend the president.”

But as another Trump lawyer, Alina Habba, said days later on that same TV news network: “You have type A personalities. We’re all lawyers, and not everybody’s always going to get along.”

Epshteyn declined to comment on the record, but a Trump 2024 campaign spokesman moved to create distance between the remaining lawyers and the departing counsel.

“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,” Steven Cheung told The Daily Beast.

Then there’s the 33-year-old Lindsey Halligan, a relatively inexperienced lawyer who suddenly appeared in Trump’s orbit sometime last summer as a vocal advocate on the right-wing Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast. She was at Mar-a-Lago during the FBI’s search there in August, quickly became involved in Trump’s bumbling lawsuit in October against CNN for comparing Trump to Hitler, and has since been generally involved in his defense against the feds.

Fellow attorneys advising Trump have seriously questioned why she’s on the team, given that the most notable case she worked on since graduating from law school in 2013 appears to have been second-chair to a more senior lawyer defending an insurance company at a two-day trial against three Miami homeowners with damaged roofs. Even in that case, a judge wouldn’t award her attorney’s fees because he ruled that her team screwed up and didn’t act “in good faith.”

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“It waters down the honor to represent a president. It really does, when you think about it,” one of her colleagues told The Daily Beast.

Two current members of Trump’s defense speculated that Trump only keeps Halligan around because he likes to be surrounded by attractive people.

Halligan did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But another colleague came to her defense.

“With a new person coming in, people are looking to undercut her. She's a young, attractive woman, and people can be pretty sexist,” this person said, noting that such speculation about her hiring was “an easy way to undercut a woman attorney.”

Another Trump source also disputed the characterization, saying Halligan is "a highly experience litigation attorney and served as a partner at one of the largest law firms in Florida."

Trump’s mounting legal problems have only added to the general anxiety afflicting his attorneys.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which indicted Trump in March for faking business records, is about to dump thousands of documents of evidence on defense lawyers Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles, and Joe Tacopina—who aren’t allowed to freely share those documents with the former president. They may even have to fight Trump to prevent him from stupidly posting sensitive details on social media.

The DA’s prosecutors are already trying to fracture Trump’s legal team by attempting to disqualify Tacopina and make him seem like a weak link, because he has a tenuous connection to a key witness in the case, the porn star Stormy Daniels whose hush money payment Trump tried to hide while running for president back in 2016.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys Alina Habba and Christopher Kise are gearing up for a civil trial in October against the New York Attorney General, who seeks to bleed the Trump Organization dry and destroy Trump’s ability to do conduct business in the financial capital of the world by holding him personally liable for bank and insurance fraud.

In Georgia, the defense lawyers Drew Findling, Melissa Goldberg, and Jennifer L. Little are preparing for the Fulton County District Attorney to indict Trump in July or August over the way he intimidated the state’s top elections official in 2021 while trying to overturn his loss there—a recorded phone call where he was advised by yet other lawyers he trusted.

And an entirely different team of lawyers split up between the nation’s capital and his oceanside Florida estate—former federal prosecutors M. Evan Corcoran, John P. Rowley, and Jim Trusty up north and Halligan down south—are gearing up for two different fights with the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, there’s growing resentment against Habba and Tacopina among the some lawyers over the way they handled Trump’s recent rape trial against the journalist E. Jean Carroll. The former president didn’t bother showing up to testify, his attorneys presented no case, and the jury swiftly concluded he committed sexual abuse. One source commended the duo for putting up a fight while dealing with a no-bullshit federal judge and a client who wouldn’t stop digging himself into a hole. But others ripped Habba for failing to get better rulings from the federal judge before the trial and tore into Tacopina over his brutish performance in court.

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“She quickly demonstrated herself to have a total lack of understanding, and he totally screwed that case up. That was a winnable case if he presented a defense,” one source said.

While Trump’s sprawling legal battalion occasionally comes together for massive meetings about the overall pitiful state of affairs, each case team operates in its own lane—raising suspicions that some teams are completely under-equipped and could cause others to trip up. Trump has so many simultaneous criminal investigations that they have to coordinate to not double book potential appearances in court—or trials. And they all have to bear in mind that he’s actively campaigning for president of the United States.

But what’s really driving the deepest distrust is the way Smith’s investigators have started turning up the heat on Trump’s own lawyers, driving wedges between the counselors and their client.

It happened when a federal judge, citing the existence of a possible crime, unilaterally and speedily handed prosecutors Corcoran’s professional notes—an odd and highly questionable move involving what are normally highly guarded secrets.

And it happened when those prosecutors questioned Habba, who put herself in an impossible situation when she declared in the New York AG’s case that she thoroughly searched every nook and cranny at Mar-a-Lago for documents relevant in that business fraud case—only to have the FBI later find classified documents in those desk drawers and cabinets months later.

“It's either perjury or incompetence,” said one insider.

Several attorneys on Trump’s team consider these two events as potential liabilities, given that the feds could pressure them to become witnesses against their client.

The DOJ case is getting so hot, some lawyers have begun to see it as radioactive to their careers. One lawyer on Trump’s team emphatically told The Daily Beast, “I have nothing to do with that. I have a law license to protect.” Another stressed they might slam the eject button before it gets much worse.

“It’s crazy in there. It really is. I’ve heard there’s a mess coming,” this person said.

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