As the criminal investigation into the former president’s handling of secret materials and obstructions of justice at Mar-a-Lago approaches its conclusion, Donald Trump’s legal team has been enduring significant mistrust and interpersonal strife for months. These issues could compromise their defense of the former president.
When one of the team’s top attorneys, Tim Parlatore, abruptly left his representation two weeks ago, citing irreconcilable disagreements with Trump’s senior adviser and in-house counsel, Boris Epshteyn, the internal strife within the legal team finally came to light.
But Parlatore’s resignation was the result of months of building tensions that, in part because of the unresolved interpersonal issues, continue to jeopardize the efficacy of the legal team at a vital moment when federal prosecutors consider filing charges.
It also comes as various criminal investigations involving the former president have multiple Trump attorneys involved: Parlatore and Trump attorney Evan Corcoran appeared before the grand jury in the classified materials probe, while Epshteyn was recently questioned by the special counsel.
The conflict has been centered on animosity between the legal team’s attorneys, who have grown to mistrust one another, as well as their animosity toward Epshteyn, whom they view as overseeing the legal work and controlling direct communication with the former president.
In one occasion, the arguments got so bad that some of the attorneys settled on a “murder-suicide” agreement, according to which they would all resign in unison if Parlatore was fired. Additionally, several of the attorneys concealed material from co-counsel who they believed might brief Epshteyn while attempting to exclude him.
The internal strife eventually got to the point that some of the attorneys began to think that rather than somebody like Parlatore choosing to assist with prosecutors, the biggest obstacle to defending Trump would just be the mistrust and interpersonal discord.
In fact, according to a transcript of his testimony, Parlatore told the grand jury hearing the case’s evidence last year that Trump granted him free reign to hunt for any remaining records at his properties last year. This is why the defense team is reportedly sure that Parlatore won’t turn on Trump.
Epshteyn is still a trusted member of Trump’s inner circle despite a later attempt to get him removed from the case failing. Six persons with direct knowledge of the issue gave the Guardian a description of the months-long deterioration of the relationship that led to that point.
A Trump representative issued a statement in which she claimed: “This is entirely incorrect and is based on pure fiction.
The unlawful weaponization of the Justice Department and its witch hunts intended to sway an election in an effort to keep President Trump from winning another term in office are what really matter.