Two of former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers who had represented him in the classified documents investigation resigned from his legal team the day after he was indicted, according to a statement they released Friday.
The attorneys, James Trusty and John Rowley, left Trump’s defense team in a state of chaos and confusion as he faced the most serious legal threat of his career: a 37-count indictment filed in Miami accusing him of illegally withholding documents after he left office about some of the country’s most sensitive national security secrets and about colluding with an aide to hinder the government’s repeated efforts to recover them.
Mr. Trump announced the departure of Mr. Trusty and Mr. Rowley in a Friday post on his social media platform, Truth Social. He said he would be represented by a new lawyer, Todd Blanche.
“I want to thank Jim Trusty and John Rowley for their work, but they had to face a most dishonest, corrupt, evil and ‘sick’ group of people the likes of which has never been seen before,” the former president wrote. . “We will be announcing additional attorneys in the coming days.”
In a joint statement released shortly after Mr Trump’s message was posted, Mr Trusty and Mr Rowley wrote that they had submitted their resignations. “It has been an honor to have defended him this past year,” they wrote, “and we know he will be vindicated.”
Their departure came a month after the resignation of a third attorney on Trump’s team, Timothy Parlatore. Days after he stopped representing the former president, Mr Parlatore appeared on NewsMadura to complain about how another attorney close to Mr Trump, Boris Epshteyn, had created conflict in the legal team.
Mr. Blanche will accompany Mr. Trump to his arraignment in Miami on Tuesday. It is unclear whether other lawyers will also be with them. Mr. Trump is expected to begin interviewing new Florida attorneys on Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to discuss them.
As late as Thursday night, less than two hours after the former president’s legal team was notified of his indictment, Mr. Trusty was on NewsMadura defending Mr. Trump and denouncing the case against him.
mr. trusty and mr. Rowley were two of three attorneys who attended a meeting with Justice Department officials — including special prosecutor Jack Smith — three days before the indictment.
Two people familiar with the matter said that Mr. Trusty and Mr. Rowley had repeatedly complained about working with Mr. Epshteyn. One of the people with direct knowledge of the events said that was part of the reason for the departure. The person said that Mr. Trusty and Mr. Rowley were still on good terms with Mr. Trump.
But in the past, several Trump lawyers have complained that Mr. Epshteyn only brought positive news to the former president and did not bring bad news to him.
Mr. Blanche, who also represents Mr. Trump in the case against him in a Manhattan court, represents both the former president and Mr. Epshteyn.
In their statement, Mr. Trusty and Mr. Rowley said the shift of the case to Florida made it “a logical moment for us to step aside and let others bring things to completion.”
They added: “We have no plans to make any media appearances about our recordings or any other confidential communications we have had with the president or his legal team.”
Mr. Parlatore, on the other hand, directly blamed Mr. Epshteyn for NewsMadura after he left the team.
An aide to Mr Trump, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, stressed that the suggestion that the departure was related to internal dynamics was “ridiculous”.
Appearing on NewsMadura on Friday after the indictment was unsealed, Mr Parlatore said of Mr Rowley and Mr Trusty’s departure: “Look, it’s surprising and not surprising at the same time. It’s a difficult situation to be in.” He made it clear as he spoke that he meant working with Mr. Epshteyn.
Mr. Parlatore also acknowledged the seriousness of several allegations in the indictment, particularly allegations that the documents Mr. Trump kept could harm national security.
“That’s serious stuff,” said Mr. Parlatore.
The lawyers’ departure came at a time of grave legal vulnerability for Mr. Trump and underlined how his many legal teams have been rife with partiality and attrition over the years.
When Mr. Trump was investigated by Special Counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for possible conspiracy between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russian officials, his legal team was shaken a few times.
The second time he was impeached — in January 2021, for inciting supporters at the Capitol to stay in power after the 2020 election — Mr. Trump again struggled to attract lawyers. When he did, several of them fought each other.