By Jack Phillips
Former President Donald Trump on Friday said he would be changing members of the legal team representing him in the federal case over whether he mishandled classified materials, soon after he announced he would be indicted by the Department of Justice.
Trump will be represented by Todd Blanche and a law firm “to be named later,” he wrote on Truth Social. Attorneys John Rowley and Jim Trusty, who issued public comments on the case to CNN on Thursday, won’t be representing him in the case, Trump added.
“I want to thank Jim Trusty and John Rowley for their work, but they were up against a very dishonest, corrupt, evil, and ‘sick’ group of people, the likes of which has not been seen before,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social in a post on Friday morning. “We will be announcing additional lawyers in the coming days. When will Joe Biden be Indicted for his many crimes against our Nation? MAGA!”
On Thursday evening, Trusty appeared on CNN to discuss the case. He also gave an interview to NBC News’ “Today” on Friday morning about the charges.
Trump wrote that the changes were made because the case, which he described as the “greatest witch hunt of all time,” is moving to the court system in Florida. He did not provide other details about his plans.
“We will be announcing additional lawyers in the coming days,” he continued. “When will Joe Biden be Indicted for his many crimes against our Nation? MAGA!”
Neither Trusty nor Rowley issued public comments on Trump’s announcement Friday. It’s not clear if they will continue to represent Trump on other matters.
Trusty told CNN the charges include conspiracy, false statements, obstruction of justice, and illegally retaining classified documents under the Espionage Act. The federal indictment has yet to be unsealed.
It is the second criminal case for Trump, who is due to go on trial in New York next March in a state case stemming from alleged payments that were made in 2016. In that case, Trump has pleaded not guilty.
And meanwhile, Blanche is currently representing Trump in the Manhattan payments case. He previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
The cases do not prevent Trump from campaigning or taking office if he were to win the November 2024 presidential election. Legal experts say there would be no basis to block his swearing-in even if he were convicted and sent to prison.
Trump has previously said he declassified those documents while president. The case was thrust into the national headlines last August when the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Months later, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that a special counsel in the case, Jack Smith, would probe the classified records case and other federal cases against Trump.
“The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate,” Smith said in a statement after he was appointed.
Under federal law, defendants have a right to be charged where the activity in question took place. A Florida prosecution, legal experts say, could head off a drawn-out legal challenge from Trump’s team over the proper venue.
Trump’s legal troubles have not dented his popularity with Republican voters, according to Reuters-Ipsos polling. His main Republican rivals have so far lined up behind him to criticize the case as politically motivated.
The Republican state-by-state presidential nominating contest kicks off early next year, and the party is due to choose its nominee for the November 2024 election in July of that year.
On Friday, the White House repeatedly declined to comment on the Trump case and claimed the matter would be independently. “We are just not going to comment on this case and would refer you to the DOJ, which runs its criminal investigations independently,” deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters on Air Force One.
A day before that, President Joe Biden told reporters that he did not pressure the Department of Justice into indicting his predecessor.
Moments after Trump announced changes to his legal team, he indicated on social media that Walt Nauta, a former aide, was indicted in the special counsel investigation into the classified documents. Alleged anonymous sources told CNN and other outlets that he was indicted.
“They are trying to destroy his life, like the lives of so many others, hoping that he will say bad things about ‘Trump.’ He is strong, brave, and a Great Patriot. The FBI and DOJ are CORRUPT!” he wrote on Truth Social, referring to Nauta.
Reuters contributed to this report.