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Opinion: ‘Good-Natured’ Trump Trial Lawyer Is Turning Into His Accomplice

In World
May 25, 2024

All through the hush-money trial, Donald Trump has excoriated Judge Juan Merchan and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as corrupt thugs.

So, you might assume that Trump will blame them and not the lead defense attorney Todd Blanche if the case ends in a conviction.

But Trump has his own logic. He repeatedly leveled the same insults at Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Erdogan and New York State Attorney General Leticia James during the civil fraud case that led to a $464 million judgment against him. And yet he was quick to blame his defense attorney in that case, Susan Necheles.

“Hey, loser. Loser,” Trump called the accomplished Yale Law graduate, according to someone who was there.

Even so, watching the two men in court suggests that Trump seems happy enough with Blanche. Appearance is very important to Trump, and Blanche has an athletic look. And, in a sign of being all in, Blanche has moved his family to Palm Beach near Mar-a-Lago.

While Blanche has not been ready to go full Roy Cohn for his client, he has ventured into the absurd. He argued at one point that Trump was allowed to violate the judge’s gag order because his insults were “political” and therefore permitted as free speech.

“Mr. Blanche, you’re losing all credibility,” an irate judge told him.

That must have elevated Blanche in Trump’s estimation.

Of course, nothing would boost Blanche in Trump’s eyes more than an acquittal or even a hung jury. Trump then might even call Blanche a winner—at least until the conclusion of the two other criminal cases where he represents Trump.

In the classified documents case, Judge Aileen Cannon might just as well be a member of the defense team. And, if Trump somehow loses that one, Blanche better get ready for the L-word bigtime.

Trump’s Apparent VP Contender Proudly Flies Jan. 6-Linked Flag

The much tougher case for Trump and therefore Blanche is the one involving the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol and the alleged effort to overturn the 2020 election. The unindicted co-conspirators include three former Trump lawyers who seemed to have acceded to to his perpetual pushing to go beyond the bounds of the law, which he considers just an inconvenience.

But the hush money and Jan. 6 cases are federal, which means Trump could just pardon himself if he manages to get elected. Trump would then also be able to free the Jan. 6 felons and scrap climate change measures and deport millions of immigrants.

People fearful of Trump returning to the White House are coming to see Blanche not just as a defense attorney but as a kind of in-house counsel. They are coming to see Blanche as an accomplice. And, even if he has a falling out with Trump as is almost inevitable, Blanche will be considered partly responsible for whatever Trump wrought.

Back in 1999, Blanche worked as a paralegal at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York while attending night school and raising two young children. He seems to have inexhaustible energy.

“Word got out about how good he was and everybody wanted to use him in their trials,” recalled former Assistant U.S. Attorney Aitan Goelman. “He was impressive…a relentlessly good natured guy.”

Blanche became a prosecutor there and remained for eight years before going into private practice, at WilmerHale, then at Cadwalder, Wickersham & Taft. He could have ended as just another white shoe lawyer prospering in obscurity.

Then came the kind of big case that is irresistible for a lawyer: representing a former president.

Only the former president was Trump. Blanche’s firm asked him to either drop his new client or resign. He stuck with Trump, and three fellow attorneys who know him later expressed their disappointment and alarm to The Daily Beast.

“The danger is that [Trump] can convince you to go against your better judgment,” one lawyer said.

A former Trump attorney said of his onetime client, “He thinks everyone loves him and he makes everybody miserable.”

The lawyer added simply, “He’s a bad guy.”

Blanche signed on to defend Trump in three historic cases without having ever mounted a major criminal defense. He has been accused of making rookie mistakes, which is to be expected of a rookie.

But so far, he seems to remain in his client’s good graces. And in exchange for that he risks being forever associated with a pathological narcissist who stokes the worst in us.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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