Donald Trump has been in steady litigation for the greater part of his career, and it’s fairly clear he’s the consummate nightmare client: stiffing lawyers, apparently pressuring them to break legal and ethical rules, and gleefully ignoring their advice. There was that time his lawyers told him to refrain from tweeting about the then ongoing Robert Mueller investigation only to have him do it “before they got to the end of the West Wing driveway,” The Washington Post reported. As the legal fallout from the January 6 insurrection started to put a number of Trump lawyers in legal jeopardy of their own, some of them began joking that MAGA actually stood for “making attorneys get attorneys.” Even Trump told Sean Hannity this March: “I say sometimes to a lawyer, ‘Are you sure you want to represent me? I think you’re making a mistake.’”
And so it was no surprise that Trump has reportedly struggled to assemble a legal team as his court proceedings begin in Florida, with many major Florida attorneys refusing to take him on. Two of Trump’s lawyers, John Rowley and Jim Trusty, quit just a day after the federal indictment came down, following in the footsteps of Timothy Parlatore, who resigned in May. “The problem is none of us want to work for the guy,” one top federal criminal defense attorney in the Southern District of Florida told The Messenger. Said another: “My wife would divorce me and my kids wouldn’t talk to me if I defended Trump.”
Trump’s tarnished reputation seems to have limited his options for representation. In Florida, he’s been represented by Lindsey Halligan, whose prior legal practice largely focused on residential and commercial insurance issues. As of last August, a search of federal court records conducted by The Washington Post returned zero hits of her name. In New York, he’s being represented by Alina Habba, a partner at a tiny law firm headquartered just a few miles from Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course, whose qualifications prior to working for Trump included a stint as general counsel for a parking garage company. And coordinating much of Trump’s sprawling legal defense efforts is Boris Epshteyn, a Soviet-born investment banker, lawyer, and unflinching Trump toady with no experience in criminal defense. Some people in Trumpworld are blaming Epshteyn for the Trump legal team’s dysfunction. “Boris pissed off all the Florida lawyers. People are dropping like flies. Everybody hates him. He’s a toxic loser. He’s a complete psycho,” one member of Trump’s legal team told the Daily Beast. “He’s got daddy issues, and Trump is his daddy.”
At his arraignment on Tuesday, Trump appeared with two slightly more buttoned-up figures—Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, and Todd Blanche, a former federal prosecutor with experience in white-collar defense—though neither has any expertise in national security cases. Trump, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman wrote last week, is still “searching to find a vicious lawyer in the mold of his mentor Roy Cohn.”
As Trump’s current legal woes escalate, we’ve assembled a rogues’ gallery of some of the lawyers who hopped on and off Trump’s legal carousel in the over three years since his first impeachment trial, and whose legal work for the now federally indicted former president landed them in hot water:
A former marine smarting from a calamitous 2014 run for Congress in California, Bobb joined the Donald Trump administration early on, first as a law clerk in the White House Office for National Drug Control Policy, then for stints at the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. She was reportedly considered to be “mega MAGA” by other DHS officials, who (foreshadowing!) worried whether she could be trusted with classified information. Bobb pivoted in June 2020, becoming an on-air anchor for far-right One America News Network, where she obsequiously covered the White House and reliably churned out election lies. She was in the Trump “war room” at the Willard InterContinental hotel with fake-elector mastermind John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, and others on the morning of January 6. Bobb then joined the Trump team officially in March 2022. Soon after, she signed a sworn statement attesting that, to the best of her knowledge, Trump’s legal team had conducted a “diligent search” of his Mar-a-Lago compound and had returned classified documents. Bobb was at Mar-a-Lago during the FBI raid in August 2022 which proved her sworn statement to be false. (Bobb later complained privately that she didn’t fully understand what she was signing.) According to her Twitter bio, she is still an attorney for the Trump 2024 campaign.
A former law professor and once high-ranking member of the archconservative Federalist Society, Eastman provided the “brains”—such as they were—for Trump’s crackpot plan to pressure Mike Pence to block the election-certification process, a scheme Eastman privately admitted was unlawful. On January 6, Eastman spoke next to Giuliani at the rally at the Ellipse, and afterward reportedly sought a pardon, emailing Giuliani, “I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” (The list never came to fruition.) Though Eastman retired from his academic post at Chapman University soon after the Capitol riot and no longer chairs a major Federalist Society practice group, he remains firmly ensconced at the California-based Claremont Institute, an ultra-MAGA think tank. After the insurrection, White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told Eastman to “get a great f–king criminal defense lawyer. You’re going to need it.” In California, he is going to trial in front of the State Bar Court, which could strip him of his law license. He’s also a likely target in Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis’s investigation into Trump’s fake-elector plot in Georgia.
Mitchell is one of just a handful of former Trump election lawyers who can be said to have landed on her feet, if by landed on her feet you mean continued her unrelenting assault on the right to vote. Though she resigned from her law firm after news broke that she had been on Trump’s infamous vote-finding call with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, she chalked up her ouster to “leftist groups via social media” and quickly hopped on the right-wing gravy train.
In 2021, Mitchell founded the “Election Integrity Network” under the aegis of the Conservative Partnership Institute, a relatively young but very well-funded nonprofit that has become “a hub for the Big Lie in exile,” as one journalist put it. During the 2022 midterms, Mitchell’s group conscripted thousands of activists into poll-watching and other right-wing hysteria over nonexistent fraud. In a recent private talk with big Republican donors, Mitchell advocated pushing to make voting more difficult for college students in major swing states.
Castor, a Pennsylvania lawyer whose previous claim to fame was his refusal to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005 after Andrea Constand accused him of sexual assault, was tapped as one of Trump’s lead defense lawyers during his second impeachment trial. In a widely ridiculed performance that reportedly left Trump “borderline screaming,” Castor gave a meandering, incoherent opening speech, at one point mistakenly referring to himself as the “lead prosecutor.” Even Alan Dershowitz, who represented Trump during his first impeachment trial, confessed to having “no idea what (Castor’s) doing.” More recently, Castor represented Giuliani in a civil suit filed by a Pennsylvania voting supervisor accusing Giuliani, Trump, the Trump campaign, and two local poll watchers of subjecting him to harassment and physical threats via their election lies, leading him to experience two heart attacks. In late May, Castor filed a motion requesting to be released from Giuliani’s defense. “He’s not cooperating, and he’s not paying me,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer. (Giuliani claimed to the Daily Beast through a spokesperson that Castor was paid in full for his work.)
For a brief, terrifying moment, Powell’s syrupy, southern drawl and leopard-print cardigan were a near-constant presence on Fox News and in election press conferences, even after Trump booted her just days after a Trump lawyer named her a member of his legal team’s “elite strike force.” In one infamous interview, Powell claimed she was going to “release the Kraken”—a QAnon catchphrase later repeated by Ginni Thomas in texts to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows—though her evidence of election subversion could charitably be described as far-fetched. The former federal prosecutor has since been subject to a number of sanctions motions and disciplinary complaints in multiple states—“We have been besieged by lawfare,” she said during a recent legal hearing—and was hit with a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems. Though that case is still pending, a deranged November 2020 email from a Minnesota artist that Powell forwarded to Fox host Maria Bartiromo became a key piece of evidence in Dominion’s suit against Fox. The email included lies about Dominion voting machines and claims that the artist was capable of time travel. “The wind tells me I am a ghost,” the artist wrote.
In many ways, Ellis is the quintessential Trumpian embellisher. Despite limited legal experience working as a local prosecutor in rural Colorado, Ellis quickly wormed her way into the national media spotlight, casting herself as a “constitutional law attorney” in appearances on Fox News. Her Fox hits caught Trump’s eye, and she became a “senior legal adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign and to the president” in 2019. In mid-November 2020 Ellis bragged that she was part of “an elite strike-force team” that included Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell and had been assembled to challenge the election results. (In what we can only assume was a moment of karma, during a December election hearing in Michigan, Giuliani twice appeared to audibly fart next to Ellis.) After the insurrection, Ellis slunk back to the right-wing media’s make-work program for transphobes, and has more recently made public statements criticizing her former boss and praising his chief rival, Ron DeSantis. This March, she was censured by a Colorado court after she admitted to making false claims about the 2020 election, though the judge declined to disbar her.
Remember Four Seasons Total Landscaping? Those mysterious oleaginous excretions? That tawdry Borat scene? For a few months in fall 2020, Trump lawyer and erstwhile “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani beclowned himself over and over in public as he bent over backward to challenge the results of the 2020 election. Trump cut most ties with Giuliani soon after January 6, and allegedly refused his requests to pay a $20,000-a-day salary. “Lay down with dogs. Wake up with fleas and without $20,000 a day,” a onetime Giuliani press secretary said, chiding his former boss. Now, Giuliani is engulfed in legal trouble of his own. His law license was suspended in New York and Washington, DC, and he’s been named as a target in Fani Willis’s Georgia investigation. And in May, a former employee filed a civil suit accusing Giuliani of rape, battery, sexual assault, wage theft, and more. As part of the suit, Giuliani is accused of discussing plans to sell presidential pardons for $2 million a pop.
We chose to limit our list of Trump’s attorneys because there are too many to count, but it would be almost cruel to not at least make mention of Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer, now disbarred, who went to jail (and served home confinement) for campaign-finance charges, lying to Congress, and other crimes he committed during the years he worked for the former president.