When thieves fall out, the prosecution wins

One of the tactics that prosecutors use against defendants is to try and pressure lpeople to testify against their bosses. If that fails, then they charge them with offenses and use that to pressure them to turn against one another in exchange for a favorable plea deal. This works particularly well against low-level people who may not have the resources to pay for expensive attorney and for whom the prospect of any jail time would be alarming. They may well wonder why they should take the fall for doing the bidding of others.

The Georgia case with its 18 defendants in addition to serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) provides plenty of opportunities for such negotiations and it looks like the process the process has already started.

Former Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer said attorneys for former President Donald Trump, his campaign and the local GOP were responsible for urging him to assemble a slate of false presidential electors that are now at the heart of a sprawling racketeering case.

Shafer is among the 18 defendants indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, alongside Trump as part of a conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election.

To bolster his proposition, Shafer provided new documents that underscore the Trump campaign’s close involvement in efforts to assemble a group of pro-Trump activists on Dec. 14, 2020 to sign documents claiming to be Georgia’s legitimate presidential electors. Those false electors were later used by Trump allies to attempt to foment a conflict on Jan. 6, 2021 and derail the transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

The filing underscores the tensions likely to manifest among the 19 defendants as the case unfolds and defendants seek to shift culpability to others charged in the alleged conspiracy.

“[A]n attorney for the President was present at the December 14, 2020 meeting of the presidential electors itself and advised the Presidential Electors, including Mr. Shafer, that performance of their duties was necessary on behalf of the President and the Constitution,” Shafer’s filing noted, identifying Smith as the attorney.

Prosecutors in Georgia have rejected Shafer’s contention that he was acting purely on the advice of Trump campaign lawyers and suggested that he, above other members of the false elector slate, played a leadership role in the effort.

In addition to racketeering, Shafer is charged with “impersonating a public officer,” forgery, false statements and writings, and filing false documents. Smith is charged with solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, conspiracy to commit impersonating of a public officer and conspiracy to commit forgery.

A similar process is underway in the federal prosecution of the classified documents case in Florida. Recall that in that indictment there was an unnamed IT person identified only as Employee 4 (who was identified in the media as Yuscil Taveras because of his title of director of information technology at Mar-a-Lago) who it was alleged was asked by SSAT’s aide Carlos De Oliveira to erase the data on the servers that showed people moving the boxes of documents. Initially, Taveras denied that he had been asked to do any such thing. But that was when his attorney was being paid for by SSAT’s PAC. When he switched to having a lawyer from the federal prosecutor’s office, he retracted his earlier testimony.

He initially testified to a grand jury in Washington, D.C., that he was unaware of any effort to erase the videos, but after getting the new attorney “immediately … retracted his prior false testimony” and detailed the alleged effort to tamper with evidence related to the investigation of the handling of classified information stored at Trump’s Florida home, the new submission said.

Taveras’ reversal led directly to new charges against Trump that Smith’s prosecutors included in a superseding indictment issued by a federal grand jury in Miami last month, detailing alleged efforts to erase the security camera recordings, prosecutors said. Nauta had been charged in the initial indictment, but de Oliveira was added as a defendant only in the revised indictment.

And we can probably expect more flips because other co-conspirators are hurting for money to pay their lawyers’ fees and have openly started grumbling that SSAT is not helping them.

Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys are in desperate need of cash after being indicted as co-conspirators in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ sprawling racketeering investigation.

Jenna Ellis, a former attorney for Trump, who is among the 18 co-defendants indicted with felony racketeering and numerous conspiracy counts, publicly questioned why the super PAC MAGA Inc. isn’t covering the costs of her legal defense.

“I was reliably informed Trump isn’t funding any of us who are indicted,” Ellis wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Would this change if he becomes the nominee? Why then, not now? I totally agree this has become a bigger principle than just one man. So why isn’t MAGA, Inc. funding everyone’s defense?”

Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani also still hasn’t been paid for his efforts to keep Trump in power, according to The New York Times. He and his lawyer even “made personal appeals to the former president over a two-hour dinner in April at his Mar-a-Lago estate and in a private meeting at his golf club in West Palm Beach,” according to the report.

Despite nearly a year of mounting expenses from various legal battles related to his efforts to keep Trump in office after the 2020 election, Giuliani’s team has consistently looked to the former president for financial support. 

However, even though Giuliani’s bills have strained his finances, the former president has mostly avoided committing to help even after making a vague promise during their dinner at Mar-a-Lago, sources familiar with the matter told The Times. 

“Any new lawyer knows you should have a written agreement, a retainer, and regular billing in place before starting any work for a client with Trump’s history of bankruptcies and debt-dodging,” DeSimone said. 

The former Trump lawyer is facing close to $3 million in legal fees, excluding the compensation he is owed for his efforts in helping Trump after Election Day, a person familiar with the matter told The Times. 

“This shouldn’t surprise anyone,” DeSimone said. “Trump has been getting away with not paying bills all his life. For me, the issues involving what Trump owed Giuliani, about $3 million, for employing him as his attorney are exactly what Giuliani should have expected to happen.”

Of course, SSAT’s PACs paying for the defense of all the other people in the indictment would only add to the impression that they were indeed conspiring together. Giuliani and Ellis are members of SSAT’s “gaggle of crackpot lawyers” (in the memorable phrase of Mike Pence) who enthusiastically enabled the scheme to overturn the election. Actually they could be accused of malpractice for advocating actions that they should have known would fail.

Although SSAT is notorious for not paying people, I am a little surprised that he seems to be abandoning Giuliani. They go back a long way and Giuliani probably knows a lot of dirt about SSAT. You would think that it would be worthwhile for SSAT to keep him onside. Maybe he is using the promise of paying Giuliani’s legal bills in the future to buy his silence. If Giuliani falls for that knowing SSAT’s practice of reneging on deals, he is even more of a crackpot than previously thought.

I suspect that we are going to see more dominoes falling as the days go by and the trial dates approach.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    When he switched to having a lawyer from the federal prosecutor’s office, he retracted his earlier testimony.

    Some -- certainly including Trump’s attorneys -- might consider this counsel a bit biased as well.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    My initial feeling was that Fani Willis had erred in simultaneously indicting so many people on so many charges, rather than concentrating (as Jack Smith has) on Trump and a few rock solid ones. I feared it would cause delay. I’m very happy to be proven wrong, if it turns out the multiplicity just means they end up rapidly eating each other before turning on The Big Boss and bringing him down to save their skins.

    Pass the popcorn.

  3. flex says

    @1, Pierce R. Butler,

    I suspect it will come out that the lawyer from the federal prosecutor’s office showed Taveras some of the other evidence they have which would prove that his first statement was a lie.

    Now, it’s not unknown for prosecutor’s to lie themselves, so we’ll really have to see what evidence shows up during the trial. Assuming Taveras doesn’t look for a plea bargain. I doubt that the prosecutor’s office is going to care too much about convicting Taveras, he’s probably already frightened as hell about going to prison for a long time. I suspect he would rather take a plea bargain and walk rather than serve any time, and his testimony for the prosecution could be very damaging for other defendants.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    flex @ # 3 -- I agree with all your suspicions and doubts: Y. Taveras will surely come out better this way than by following the Trump-shyster’s advice.

    … it’s not unknown for prosecutor’s to lie themselves…

    Gasp! Gasp, I say!

  5. Ridana says

    @1) “Some — certainly including Trump’s attorneys — might consider this counsel a bit biased as well.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Aren’t lawyers supposed to be biased in favor of their clients? When he was getting counsel from Trump-paid attorneys, he was getting advice that most benefited Trump. Now that his counsel is not being paid by Trump, he’s getting advice that most benefits himself, as it should be. And this is not the first time we’ve seen this in action, when Trump’s funds are paying for the lawyers of someone whose testimony could be damaging to him. (note, of course I don’t mean Trump himself is actually paying for anyone’s lawyers, including his own)

  6. Silentbob says

    (off topic)

    I know Mano is of Sri Lankan descent; nevertheless I feel moved to use his blog to offer congratulations to India on a successful Moon landing. An extraordinary achievement! Especially for a nation that suffered so long under the yoke of colonization.

    “India’s Chandrayaan-3 makes historic landing on the lunar south pole -- ABC News”

    (/off topic)

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ridana @ # 5: Aren’t lawyers supposed to be biased in favor of their clients?

    As you point out in your very next line, YT’s previous attorney gave him advice favoring the interests of the party paying that attorney. So, if the current lawyer gets payment from the prosecutor’s office, we might expect advice favoring same. That the latter choice may well work out the YT’s advantage seems coincidental -- as does the likelihood that this may also work out to public/planetary benefit.

    Last I heard, bar associations have rules requiring lawyers do their best for their clients -- meaning whoever they represent, not those who pay them. Stanley Woodward (the Trump-PAC-paid lawyer just dumped by Taveras) seems ripe for disciplinary/disbarment proceedings, though his continuing to “represent” Walt Nauta in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case may complicate or delay that (assuming, of course, that the Fla Bar Ass’n does anything at all in the name of their own ethics standards, hah-hah!).

  8. sonofrojblake says

    @Silentbob, 7:

    I know Mano is of Sri Lankan descent; […] congratulations to India

    “I know this is going to sound ignorant and racist, but I don’t care, so…”

    Well done, sir. Well done.

    Now do Canadians and the USA, Japanese and Chinese, and basically all of Africa. They’re all the same, ain’t they?

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