Former President Trump reportedly spent Monday afternoon interviewing potential lawyers in Florida ahead of his federal arraignment on dozens of charges related to his handling of classified documents.
Trump was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Florida on 37 criminal counts, including 31 counts for willful retention of national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, as well as one count of making false statements and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of withholding a document or record, one count of corruptly concealing a document or record, one count of concealing a document in a federal investigation, one count of a scheme to conceal.
The rules surrounding the federal court in Miami require that practicing attorneys be a member in good standing of the Florida bar, or to be sponsored by one before appearing. However, according to Washington Post sources, several prominent Florida attorneys have declined to take on Trump as a client after the departure of two key lawyers who’d been handling the documents case, James Trusty and John Rowley.
According to reporting from Rolling Stone, Trusty, Rowley and another attorney who left Trump’s team in May, Timothy Parlatore, withdrew from the case amid disputes with Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn.
Veteran Florida litigator Christopher Kise, who had joined Trump’s team last fall, led the search for new representation presumably by tapping into his extensive network in the Florida bar.
Among those who’ve reportedly declined the job is David O. Markus, who recently defended former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum against allegations that he lied to the FBI and funneled campaign money to his personal accounts.
Another lawyer to reportedly turn down Trump’s request to represent him was Howard Srebnick, who had suggested as early as last week that he might take on the case. Sources told The Guardian he declined after conferring with his law partners.
Additional lawyers who reportedly sat down for interviews Monday at Trump’s Doral resort were criminal defense attorney William Barzee, as well as Bruce Zimet, the former chief assistant U.S. attorney in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
“Without engaging in hyperbole, it’s arguably the biggest case in the world,” said prominent Florida defense attorney John Sale, a veteran of the Watergate prosecution team. “But the cons are illustrated by three of his four lawyers quitting in the last few weeks. He needs a good Florida lawyer with an impeccable reputation who is very experienced in this.”
Despite Kise having previously reduced his role in the case over his own disagreements regarding Trump’s legal strategy, by Monday’s end it appeared that he and top former federal prosecutor Todd Blanche would represent Trump at Tuesday’s arraignment, which is scheduled for 3pm ET at the federal courthouse.
Blanche is a white-collar criminal defense attorney who represented Trump 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort in his financial fraud case.
Kise declined a request for comment from The Washington Post.