Former prosecutors mock Trump’s attorneys and say they may need to hire their own lawyers amid continued Mar-a-Lago fallout
- Legal experts panned Trump’s lawyers as they continue grappling with fallout from the Mar-a-Lago raid.
- One former prosecutor said they’re “either completely incompetent or out of their depth.”
- Experts also mocked the Trump team’s latest lawsuit as a “crazy document” and a PR stunt.
Legal experts and former prosecutors are widely panning former President Donald Trump’s team of lawyers as they continue grappling with the fallout from the FBI’s unprecedented Mar-a-Lago raid.
“They appear to be either completely incompetent, or out of their depth,” Renato Mariotti, a longtime former federal prosecutor, told Insider. “That’s part of the reason why the former president has trouble finding lawyers: because he demands that they file documents and take positions that have no legal support whatsoever.”
This week’s mockery of Trump’s legal team comes after they filed a lawsuit Monday requesting the appointment of a special master to sift out potentially privileged materials seized in the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid earlier this month.
One attorney familiar with the Trump team’s thought process expressed skepticism that the former president’s lawyers are equipped to handle a case like this, adding that Trump’s main focus appears to be on waging a PR war against the Justice Department.
“He’s a big believer of the public relations assault, which I’ve never seen work,” the lawyer told Insider. “It says to me that they want to kill the messenger, which speaks to consciousness of guilt instead of dealing with the facts.”
They added: “I don’t see anybody with the experience it takes to represent a former president in a case like this. There’s a lot at stake here. He’s always playing it right up against the wind and he’s a high risk guy.”
Trump’s current legal team includes Christina Bobb, a former host on the right-wing One America News; Lindsey Halligan, a Florida insurance lawyer; Alina Habba, who was once the general counsel for a parking garage firm; and Evan Corcoran and James Trusty, both of whom are former federal prosecutors.
“He would be a very difficult client to manage,” Shanlon Wu, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider of Trump. “Seems like he doesn’t like to pay attention to what the lawyers are telling them to do, and no lawyer likes to be in that situation because you can’t really control the strategy of the case.”
Ty Cobb, who worked as White House special counsel during the Mueller probe, echoed that view.
“As time has gone by, he’s gotten farther and farther ahead of his lawyers, to the point where it’s hard to tell if they’re following his advice or if he’s following theirs,” Cobb told Insider.
Then there’s the reputational damage that attorneys could suffer after working for Trump.
Alan Dershowitz, the conservative lawyer who defended Trump in his second impeachment, told Insider in a previous interview that his speaking engagements were canceled following the trial.
Mariotti also alluded to that risk, telling Insider that “if you represent the former president, you may lose your other clients.” He added that some lawyers may also be reluctant to work for Trump because of concerns that “he would ask you or try to force you to do things that are unethical or highly problematic.”
Legal scholars scoff at Trump’s latest lawsuit
Within minutes of Trump’s lawsuit being filed Monday evening, legal scholars began picking it apart.
“The more I read Trump’s motion, the more I am completely confused and shocked he got three lawyers to risk their law licenses by filing this thing,” the national security lawyer Bradley Moss tweeted.
Andrew Weissmann, a former FBI general counsel who later worked on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, told MSNBC that the lawsuit is a “crazy document” that “in so many ways is incriminating of the former president.”
The filing also “opens a wide door for DOJ to walk through,” Weissmann tweeted. “AG Garland can now ‘speak in its filings’ and address all the factual lies and misrepresentations.”
“At its core Trump’s court filing is Alice in Wonderland as a legal argument,” Ryan Goodman, a professor at the NYU School of Law and a founding editor of Just Security, tweeted. “It’s central demand is for a special master to filter out all the documents for which there is executive privilege. But those are the very kinds of documents that belong in the National Archives.”
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern District of Florida, told Insider that the lawsuit reads to him “like a preemptive, premature motion to suppress” and that the issues they touched on would normally be raised after formal charges are filed, which hasn’t happened in this case.
Weinstein added that a special master is generally appointed when there are specific and factually supported allegations of a possible privilege intrusion.
In this case, however, Weinstein said that Trump’s lawyers appeared to make “conclusory statements and submit their own set of facts that are not supported by an affidavit or other sworn statement.”
“Much of what they allege can easily be rebutted by the government, to the extent that they are willing to do at this time,” Weinstein said.
Trump’s team also argued in the lawsuit that the warrant the FBI obtained for the Mar-a-Lago search was overly broad and violated the Fourth Amendment because it authorized the seizure of “any government and/or Presidential Records created” during the Trump administration.
But Orin Kerr, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, pointed out that “in cases involving searches for documents, it’s the norm for the government not to know the exact form of every document they’re looking for.”
Trump’s lawyers may need to lawyer up
Former prosecutors said Trump’s own attorneys may need to lawyer up in light of a recent New York Times story detailing how Trump retained boxes containing classified documents at Mar-a-Lago even after the Justice Department subpoenaed the materials. According to The Times, Trump “went through the boxes himself in late 2021” and turned over 15 boxes to the National Archives in January.
But the Justice Department later launched an investigation into Trump’s handling of national security information and determined that he likely had additional documents at Mar-a-Lago that needed to be recovered. They issued a grand jury subpoena for the records in May, and in June, a top counterintelligence official at the DOJ went to Mar-a-Lago to collect the boxes.
Corcoran then drafted a statement, which was signed by Bobb, saying that to the best of Bobb’s knowledge, all remaining classified material at Mar-a-Lago had been returned.
As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. The FBI recovered 26 boxes of records when it searched Trump’s Florida residence earlier this month, including 11 sets of material marked classified or top-secret.
It’s unclear if Bobb knew Trump was still in possession of scores of government records when she signed the June letter, and legal experts pointed out that she may need to hire her own lawyer in the wake of The Times story.
“Both of them have a problem at this point, because they’ll have to be interviewed about the documents that were still there,” Wu told Insider. “They’re in a very bad position.”
“As Melissa Murray says, MAGA also means Making Attorneys Get Attorneys,” Weissmann quipped.
Corcoran and Bobb did not immediately respond to requests for comment.