Exclusive: Communications between Stormy Daniels and Trump’s attorney are with Manhattan DA


Communications between adult film star Stormy Daniels and an attorney who now represents former President Donald Trump have been referred to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Daniels’ attorney told CNN.

The exchanges – believed to date back to 2018, when Daniels was seeking representation – raise the possibility that Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, may be left out of his defense of the former president in a case involving Trump’s alleged role in a scheme to pay silence the money to Daniels.

Daniels’ communications with Tacopina and others in his firm include details relating to Daniels’ situation, according to his current attorney Clark Brewster, who believes the communications show a disclosure of Daniels’ confidential information.

Tacopina denies that there was a conflict or that confidential information was shared with his office. He says he hasn’t met or talked to Daniels.

CNN has not seen the recordings in question. But legal ethics experts CNN spoke to said they could lead to limits on the role Tacopina can play in the trial or even disqualify him. The impact the disclosure will have on the case will depend on the circumstances and the substance of the communications, the ethics experts said.

The scrutiny of Daniels’ alleged interactions with Tacopina and his company, however, underscores how upset Trump’s team is already in how they approach the investigation years before any charges against Trump were even formally laid. .

While there have been signs that the investigation is winding down and preparations are underway for an indictment, it is not yet clear that Trump will be charged or when those charges will come to light.

Brewster told CNN that he turned over Daniels’ communications to prosecutors after seeing Tacopina make public statements that he said were contrary to what is evident in emails from Tacopina and his companies with Daniels.

It would ultimately be up to a judge to decide whether the communications constitute a conflict of interest requiring a disqualification or other limitation on the plea Tacopina can make on behalf of the former president, if a case is brought against Trump.

A 2018 TV interview Tacopina did with CNN’s Don Lemon resurfaced in recent days, in which Tacopina suggested he may have been in contact with Daniels before she found another attorney in the secret money affair, which at the time was under federal investigation. .

“I can’t really speak to my impressions or the conversations we had because there’s an attorney-client privilege that even attaches to a consultation,” Tacopina said in the 2018 interview. the old interview clip was starting to make the rounds again, Tacopina’s firm released a statement over the weekend saying “there was no attorney-client relationship” – a point Tacopina defends today .

On Tuesday, Tacopina told CNN that his 2018 interview comments “lack clarity” and he said he referenced attorney-client privilege during the television appearance “to end the investigation, because someone by the name of Stormy Daniel asked if I would represent her, and I didn’t want to discuss the matter on TV.

“However, these circumstances do not give rise to any form of attorney-client relationship,” Tacopina said Tuesday.

A key question that may need to be answered if Trump is indicted and the case goes to trial is whether the interactions Daniels allegedly had with Tacopina and his company made her a potential client.

According to New York Bar rules, “an attorney who has learned information from a prospective client shall not use or disclose that information,” even if no attorney-client relationship is established.

If Daniels shared confidential information with Tacopina, it could prevent him — or even his company — from cross-examining Daniels if she is put on the witness stand in a hypothetical lawsuit against Trump.

Tacopina would not be allowed to use the information he obtained from Daniels in their communications against her as a witness, according to legal experts, and there could be an effort to filter what he knows about the rest of the Trump team.

It would be up to prosecutors or Daniels to raise objections against him or his firm by cross-examining her, according to Stephen Gillers, a New York University Law School professor who has written extensively on ethics and rules. legal. The judge would then decide the matter.

Another rule of legal ethics implied by the situation, Gillers said, is that a lawyer acting as a witness in a trial cannot also act as a lawyer. This means that if Tacopina had information that contradicted Daniels’ testimony or undermined his credibility, he could not act as Trump’s witness while also serving as his attorney.

There would have to be a real need for Tacopina as a witness for him to be disqualified, Gillers said. “He must have critical testimony for the judge that the witness attorney rule disqualifies him.”

The ethics rules are designed to protect not only Daniels but also Trump himself, said Fordham Law School professor Bruce Green, who directs the university’s Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics. Trump may be placed in an unfair position if his attorney feels he has to pull the punches in his defense because of the communications he had with Daniels.

Still, Green called the disqualification issue a “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” issue for judges, since disqualifying a lawyer deprives a defendant of the attorney of their choice.

Prosecutors may ask Trump to waive any potential conflict, so he cannot raise the conflict as an issue if he is charged and convicted and seeks to appeal.


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