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How Incompetent is Trump’s Legal Team?

Today’s pun: Alvin Bragg is about to arraign on Trump’s parade.

Let’s talk about Trump’s bargain basement lawyers. Bess Levin writes at Vanity Fair,

One of the funniest subplots in the Donald Trump Indictment Show—which centers on the hush money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016—involves the multiple reports that, after predicting to his followers that he would be arrested on March 21, the ex-president and his allies came to believe he was in the clear.

Trump, The Washington Post reported late Thursday, “had grown cautiously optimistic” in recent days, after “advisers had counseled him that a possible indictment by a Manhattan grand jury…would not come for some time—if at all.” The former president, the outlet noted, was apparently so unconcerned about the prospect of being charged that he’d “even begun joking about ‘golden handcuffs,’” which is probably not something one does if one thinks there’s a legitimate possibility they might be indicted, convicted, and sentenced to time in prison. “It was a surprise to everybody,” David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser, told the Post, which noted that “some of his lawyers had been preparing to take a few days off.” Following the indictment, The New York Times similarly reported that “Trump and his aides were caught off guard by the timing, believing that any action by the grand jury was still weeks away and might not occur at all.” The paper of record noted that Trump had recently been “telling nearly anyone that he was in a good mood and that he believed the case against him by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, had fallen apart.”

These people should be watching MSNBC instead of Fox News. The crew at MSNBC, people like Joyce Vance, Barbara McQuade, Charles F. Coleman, Andrew Weissmann, etc., were all stressing that we can’t know what’s going to happen or when it might happen. An indictment could happen any day. An indictment could happen in a couple of months. Maybe there won’t be an indictment. Nothing is certain. Listen to the smart people, guys, not the nutjob on Fox News who thinks Nancy Pelosi secretly organized the January 6 mob for her daughter’s documentary.

But, really, one would think that any lawyer with any experience with grand juries ought to have known not to be complacent. Maybe the only lawyers willing to work for Trump any more are the ones who really need the work.

The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman was asked about how Team Trump took the news.

They’re still trying to assess what is happening on a few fronts. One is the political front, which I’d say they were most prepared on.

Another is the legal front, which is messy because his team has had a lot of infighting, and there’s finger pointing about why they were so caught off guard. The lawyers also don’t yet know the charges because it’s a sealed indictment.

Finally, there is the emotional front. While Trump is not said to be throwing things, he is extremely angry and his family is, not surprisingly, rattled.

Back to Bess Levin,

Of course, the biggest indication that Trump indeed believed he’d outrun Bragg? His taking to Truth Social on Wednesday to write: “I HAVE GAINED SUCH RESPECT FOR THIS GRAND JURY, & PERHAPS EVEN THE GRAND JURY SYSTEM AS A WHOLE…. THE GRAND JURY IS SAYING, HOLD ON, WE ARE NOT A RUBBER STAMP, WHICH MOST GRAND JURIES ARE BRANDED AS BEING, WE ARE NOT GOING TO VOTE AGAINST A PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE OR AGAINST LARGE NUMBERS OF LEGAL SCHOLARS ALL SAYING THERE IS NO CASE HERE.” Sure, that could have been an unabashed attempt to sway the jurors through flattery—but, in retrospect, those very much sound like the words of a man who was extremely confident he was not going to be indicted. “Such respect”! “The grand jury system as a whole”! “The grand jury is saying, hold on”! Do you think he still stands by these statements? If there were ever a time for the internet-ism “ROTFLMAO,” it would be now.

See also Donald Trump is melting down on Truth Social over his indictment.

In another entry for the How Stupid Are These People? file, Byron York is whining about the indictment “secrecy.” It’s a grand jury, dude. That’s how the system works. We’ll see the charges at the arraignment.

In other news: The Washington Post reports that the DoJ is said to have more evidence of possible Trump obstruction at Mar-a-Lago. Here’s the gist of it:

In the classified documents case, federal investigators have gathered new and significant evidence that after the subpoena was delivered, Trump looked through the contents of some of the boxes of documents in his home, apparently out of a desire to keep certain things in his possession, the people familiar with the investigation said.

Investigators now suspect, based on witness statements, security camera footage, and other documentary evidence, that boxes including classified material were moved from a Mar-a-Lago storage area after the subpoena was served, and that Trump personally examined at least some of those boxes, these people said. While Trump’s team returned some documents with classified markings in response to the subpoena, a later FBI search found more than 100 additional classified items that had not been turned over.

Other stuff to read: Why Is Lauren Boebert Trolling Her Own Bill? at Mother Jones. In brief, she’s a moron.

16 thoughts on “How Incompetent is Trump’s Legal Team?

  1. I'm looking forward to Tuesday a LOT! Maybe I'm out in left field but items which have not been assembled in the news in a single complaint might be by Alvin Bragg and I see no reason why it has to wait for Tuesday. I saw the picture(s) of Trump holding a baseball bat next to a picture of Alvin Bragg. It was obviously a threat and not the only one. It was also taken down after the world saw it. Trump does not like to back down so IMO, it was at the insistence of Trump's lawyers.

    I've talked to lawyers – a lot. Being in the federal grinder kinda makes that likely. No lawyer is going to make threats against the prosecutor or the judge. He'll be disbarred at the least and/or sent to prison. Knowing about threats (as Trump will conduct as a defense strategy) has to be shut down and/or reported to the court. Or the lawyer is a participant. The consequences are not trivial. 

    I read a Trump post re Braggg's wife. Trump was unhappy because she changed the privacy settings on her FB account. Trump seemed to think this was nefarious. What it means is that Trump was stalking her = or how would he know her account was no longer public?  IMO, her account was under observation from the time it became public that Bragg was considering bringing charges. IMO, Trump planned to direct the mob against her if charges were filed. (Charges were filed. In a hint how savvy Bragg may be, the account was made private days – or hours – before the charges were filed.) 

    I also saw a clip of a CNN interview where Trump's mouthpiece was asked of they'd request a different judge. The interviewer cited Trump as claiming the judge was a known anti-Trump judge. Trump's lawyer disagreed saying nothing so far indicated bias on the part of the judge. (So the lawyer is not in step with Trump and the lawyer doesn't agree with the Trump strategy of attacking everyone.) 

    It's also interesting that Trump's team has complained that Bragg is leaking info to the press (as if that's never been done or is illegal.) I think they'd like a gag order on the prosecutor while Trump should be free to flood the zone with lies that he'd never be able to introduce in court – or take the stand under oath to testify to. 

    The "thing" that could come to a head – and soon – is a ruling from the judge on social media comments on the case. Trump is individually going after Bragg and his family, and he's slandering the judge while undermining the legitimacy of the NY court altogether. Trump's lawyers have complained about leaks from Bragg's office which undermine with facts the lies the defense wants to be the public narrative.

    I don't know this judge – there's a set of traits judges tend to have. IMO, they don't take well to a defendant with an attitude. Trump's impulse is to dominate in every setting and the more uncertain he is, the more likely Trump is to assert himself. I'm predicting – with disastrous consequences. 

    Last point – (Do I hear applause?) There's a chance that there could be cameras in the court for Trump's trials. I understand the NY legislature has passed a bill that could allow it (in general – not because of Trump.) The public WILL tune in for a live Trump trial – I'm old enough to remember the OJ Simpson trial. MAGAs will tune in expecting to see Trump devour his opponents – seeing Trump taken down with evidence, testimony, and facts is a million times more effective than a filtered rendition of what happened. 

  2. From watching various interviews of Joe Tacopina I have come away with the belief that he's not intellectualy nimble. Part of it could be his New York accent that makes him sound like a thug, but his facial expressions and mannerisms displayed while describing events concerning culpability clearly show a strain in organizing his thoughts. That leads me to believe he's lying.

     Good Luck with him, Trump!

    • Tacopina is exhausting. I don't think I could stand to be in a room with him for more than ten minutes. So aggressive.

  3. "Advisers had counseled him that a possible indictment by a Manhattan grand jury…would not come for some time—if at all". He is stuck via his own arrogance with low-rate representation that understands a significant part of their purpose is to tell him what he wants to hear, lawyers with a high level of professionalism understand that serving a client best often involves telling them things they do not want to hear.  Ultimate incompetence will come when he fires them all and represents himself.

    • Trump should get a magic mirror.. "Mirror, mirror on the wall whose the cleaverest man of all? Why, you are sir!

    • Every criminal defense attorney has had difficult clients, clients who ignore legal advice, clients who stubbornly refuse to face reality, clients who won't shut up when they absolutely should.

      Sound familiar? Sound like anyone we know?

      That does not make the lawyers "low rent" or "incompetent". Trump is the client from Hell. He would call Clarence Darrow incompetent.

      Tacopina is not an incompetent or low rent attorney. He is quite competent and, indeed, sought-after. It's Trump who is the problem.

  4. Law enforcement is on high alert and barricades have been erected around Trump Tower and Manhattan Criminal Court, where Mr Trump will appear before Judge Juan Merchan at 2.15pm on Tuesday Mr Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina told ABC that his client is “gearing up for battle” in the case.

    Trump is gearing up for battle?. I guess he'll be putting on the whole armor of God. I suppose he'll put on his breastplate of righteousness and gird his loins with the codpiece of truthfulness. I hope he doesn't forget his blonde comb-over helmet of salvation.

    Winter is coming…May Trump drink the blood of his enemies, or sup on the stool of his enemies.

  5. I guess Trump is a reader of Mahablog. He noted that his lawyers look like the Keystong Cops and hired a real lawyer. 

    Donald Trump news latest: Former president to spend evening with lawyers in Trump Tower (

    This is a step up – the guy was partially able to defend Manifort but do remeber Manifort was convicted and paid millions which he did not get back after a pardon from Trump. SO it's like reporting there were survivors from the Titanic, but Manifort's excursion was about as successful as the maiden voyage. Bragg will have a tougher fight.

    I find it interesting that the guy resigned from the practice where he worked in NYC. Were the partners opposed? This means Trump will be his only client and the new guy has no staff. Yes. people can be hired but can they function as a team?  Oh, did he get his money up-front?  The more Trump drags out the legal process, the more expensive it will be for him – all these folks associated with Trump's defense have monthly expenses. If they are exclusively at Trump's beck and call while the strategy is delay, it will be expensive. Mutltiply that by the number of cases. I don't think the five million will even start to cover the cost. The more often Trump goes to the well, the dryer it will be. The civil case this year could clobber Trump for $200 million in fines. How long he can stall on that, I don't know but Trump could get into a cash flow problem as the serious cases are peaking. 

    File under I-told-you-so. 

    Donald Trump Gag Order Leaves Republicans Outraged: 'Insanity' (

    Not a done deal yet, but Trump's big mouth might have earned him a STFU order from a judge who can enforce it. 

    Pass the popcorn.

    • Manafort was tried and convicted in federal court. "Not guilty" verdicts in federal criminal court are basically non-existent. I knew many federal defense attorneys, guys whose names were in the newspapers almost daily, guys who commanded huge fees.

      They almost always lost.

      State court is a whole 'nother story. Not-guiltys happen every day.

  6. Trump's people don't listen to experts and evidence, they let magical-thinking authoritarians tell them what to think, as if reality can be bossed around like an abused corporate underling. It's a prime reason why they're so stupid and such disastrous administrators.

  7. FWIW, I've read that the judge is an immigrant from Columbia?, a real rags to success story, and as such, a no-nonsense guy.

    I've also read that Bragg and his team are the consummate pros, one of the proofs is that there's been no leaks from his quarter, despite the propensity for leaks in a high profile case like this. I am so looking forward to him dispensing justice over threats to himself and his wife. I'm also looking forward to Republicans in Congress making complete arses of themselves as the whole rotten edifice, this trial, Dominion Voting, and on and on comes tumbling fown.

    I'm really cheered by news and video I saw on Rachel's show of thousands of kids in Nashville walking out of school and occupying the state Capitol. People have finally had enough. Claire McCaskill was practically screaming at the camera that the Democrats should absolutely run on this culture war issue. The time is ripe.

    • "thousands of kids in Nashville walking out of school and occupying the state Capitol" – YES!!!  Get the eff out of school Nashville, occupy that putrid GOP cesspool!

      And Happy Arraignment Day!

  8. I just finished making a pot of Democratic Victory soup, a terrific chicken and jalapeno and bok Choi / cilantro creation that first debuted on a rainy election day, last November. We did fabulously well, the red wave never materialized.

    Tomorrow is a really important State Supreme Court election in Wisconsin (Heather Cox Richardson explains this in her substack post for Monday). Here's hoping the soup will do its magic again…

  9. The more TFG has to pay for legal expenses, then when the marks figure out they're being play, TFG is just going to need more money-laundered $.  Can't imagine where those $ would come from…

    He just get's more and more dangerous with each passing week.

  10. Did you-all know that if you commit crime you could actually get charged with a crime? That is what they are all saying over at FAUX news: "that this is an indictment of all of us because if a DA can do this to Stump they could do this to you as well". Well I just never knew that?


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