Former President Donald Trump’s lawyer has addressed new questions about a 2016 interview, in which he told CNN’s Don Lemon that he provided consultation to Stormy Daniels that could amount to an attorney-client relationship.
Attorney Joseph Tacopina now denies ever having any history or interactions with Daniels, saying his claims of attorney/client privilege were merely an innocent attempt to sidestep a question about why he was not going to represent her.
If Tacopina did, national security lawyer Bradley Moss argued on Twitter that it would be “ethically suspect” for him to represent Trump in the shadow of a criminal investigation of hush-money payments to Daniels. Former Department of Defense special counsel Ryan Goodman opined that the American Bar Association and New York State ethics rules clearly wouldn’t allow it. Other legal experts agree.
The controversy stems from CNN’s transcript of Lemon’s interview with Tacopina from March 16, 2018, shortly before the raid on the home of Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen.
Daniels at the time had been represented by Michael Avenatti, who was a cable news darling, Twitter celebrity, and rumored presidential hopeful before his coast-to-coast prosecution for serial fraud.
Lemon, however, said that Daniels approached Tacopina first on the hush money matter.
“So before being represented by Avenatti, Stormy approached you about representation,” Lemon noted. “Did you get any impression that she may have signed NDA under duress and was she afraid for her physical safety?”
Tacopina did not dispute Lemon’s assertion.
“Yes, of course, and I can’t really talk about my impressions or any conversations we had because there is an attorney-client privilege that attaches even to a consultation,” Tacopina answered.
A prominent defense attorney, Tacopina has represented former Yankees third basemen Alex Rodriguez, rapper Jay-Z, Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, and Kimberly Guilfoyle. He apparently no longer wants to claim Daniels on his CV.
“I don’t have a history with Stormy Daniels,” Tacopina told Law&Crime. “She reached out to my firm [through] a representative and asked if I would be interested in representing her and I said no. I never met her, spoke to her, or reviewed any of her documents. This doesn’t affect my representation of President Trump.”
Law&Crime called Daniels directly in an effort to resolve the factual controversy, but she did not immediately respond to a voicemail.
In an interview, former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner said it is “not clear to me how Tacopina could represent Trump” if Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) brings an indictment on the hush money payments, as reports indicate Bragg likely plans to do.
“He certainly could represent Trump with regard to the E. Jean Carroll case, which is not with a former client and not substantially related to anything he’s done before,” Epner said.
Tacopina has, however, made the TV rounds in defense of Trump on Bragg’s investigation, claiming Daniels engaged in “extortion.”
Even on the airwaves, Epner notes, the ethical rules apply.
“The ethical rules governing lawyers in New York preclude him from making any public comment about anything substantially related to what she consulted him about, even if they didn’t end up forming an attorney-client relationship,” he noted.
In an email to Law&Crime late Friday, Tacopina said there is no conflict and there was no attorney-client relationship.
“I neither met Stormy Daniels nor reviewed her documents,” he said. “Instead, someone inquired on her behalf if I would represent her, and of course, I refused the request.
I sidestepped what was an unexpected question by providing a response that lacked clarity. However, for the sake of such clarity now, kindly note that I never stated that he spoke with or met Stormy Daniels. And that is because I did not do so. My reference to the attorney-client privilege was merely intended to terminate the inquiry because someone on Stormy Daniel’s behalf did ask whether I would represent her and I did not wish to discuss the matter on television. However, those circumstances do not give rise to an attorney-client relationship in any form.”
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