Donald Trump could soon be facing a federal indictment for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election, but the former president is struggling to assemble a legal team that can defend him.
One attorney, who spoke with Rolling Stone, said he declined the offer to represent the former president since Trump’s personal lawyers often find themselves in legal jeopardy while working for him.
Others believe the defense is destined to lose the case in the nation’s capital, a jurisdiction where Jan. 6th rioters have been receiving convictions for months.
In recent weeks, some of Trump’s top legal and political advisers have even privately referred to the task of defending him against an indictment in the 2020 election case as a “suicide mission”, Rolling Stone reported.
Other lawyers, who have been approached about joining Trump’s legal team and initially showed interest, later backed out after their colleagues raised concerns. Partners at their firms objected to representing Trump as a client, fearing the potential loss of other clients, according to Rolling Stone.
“President Trump is struggling to find attorneys to defend him because he embodies the worst attributes of difficult clients: he is known to ignore legal advice; he will ask his lawyers to engage in ethically dubious behavior; he often refuses to pay his legal bills; and, he always thinks he knows best,” Temidayo Aganga-Williams, white-collar partner at Selendy Gay Elsberg and former senior investigative counsel for the House Jan. 6 committee, told Salon.
“Although President Trump faces an uphill battle in his numerous criminal cases, his inability to find and keep quality legal counsel is not because his cases will be tough to defend,” Aganga-Williams said. “Lawyers take on hard cases all the time. President Trump is a uniquely difficult client.”
Even prominent lawyers who have been publicly defending Trump are refraining from taking on this particular case. Alan Dershowitz, the lawyer who defended Trump in his first Senate impeachment trial, told Insider last August that most reputable law firms are avoiding any association with Trump as his legal issues continue to escalate.
“All big-firm lawyers have told me that their firms won’t let them do it,” Dershowitz said in an interview. “The firms won’t let them go near any case involving Trump. These are firms that want to continue to have clients, and they know that if they represent Donald Trump, they’ll lose a lot of clients.”
The challenges in recruiting legal representation in a case of this historic magnitude is a unique one for Trump – who “revels in being a lightning rod for controversial and baseless positions,” Aganga-Williams pointed out.
“This may make for good politics for Trump, but for any serious lawyer, it is a recipe of reputational damage,” he added.
Even still, the ex-president is laser-focused on turning any potential trial into a spectacle to rehash his baseless election fraud theories. Privately, Trump has conveyed to members of his team that if prosecutors proceed with a Jan. 6-related case against him, he wants the trial to serve as a platform to promote his false claims of winning the 2020 election, two people told Rolling Stone.
Trump has also said that during the trial — which he’s hoping will be televised — his lawyers should display “proof” of Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
But a D.C. district court judge will have a “low tolerance” for the former president’s “antics outside the courtroom and a high expectation that he respect the orders that come from inside the courtroom,” Aganga-Williams said.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
He added that the jury pool will also not be favorable for Trump, having a “uniquely personal” understanding of the real-world impact of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Not many cases will have jurors that have likely visited and revered the very scene of the crime,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean that Trump won’t receive a fair trial since the court system has a rigorous process to exclude jurors with overt political bias, and Trump’s legal team will also have a say during the jury selection process. At the same time though, the significant local support for Trump’s Democratic opponents indicates that he is unlikely to find much sympathy in the courtroom for his desperate efforts to try to overturn the election and claim that he is the target of a “witch hunt.”
Trump has already been indicted in New York on charges related to allegedly falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment scheme as well as in the classified documents case in southern Florida.
about the Jan. 6 probe
- Howard Levitt: Why a good lawyer never ignores the court of public opinion
- Brian Laundrie's notebook reveals confession in Gabby Petito's death
- Attorneys fight to 'correct' long prison sentence
- Greitens RINO video spurred threats to family, lawyer says
- Judge denies district attorney's request to withdraw John Henry Ramirez's execution date