(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump has been exploring options to expand his legal defense team in connection with the federal criminal investigations led by Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith, according to people familiar with the situation.
Trump representatives in recent weeks have asked for recommendations of Washington-based counsel with trial experience ahead of any charging decisions from Smith’s team. The search efforts predate the May 16 departure of Trump attorney Tim Parlatore and have continued in the weeks since he left, according to three people who requested anonymity to discuss the dynamics.
Smith’s investigation into whether Trump or anyone else mishandled classified materials after he left the White House – and whether anyone tried to obstruct the government’s efforts to get documents back – had been wrapping up heading into June, meaning potential charging decisions could be announced in the coming days or weeks. A separate probe under Smith looking at efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election is ongoing.
Three members of Trump’s special counsel defense team – James Trusty, John Rowley, and Lindsey Halligan – appeared Monday at Justice Department headquarters in Washington for a meeting with officials to discuss the documents probe. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco did not attend, a person familiar with the situation said. Last month Trusty and Rowley had sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for a meeting with Garland to discuss Smith’s work.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Parlatore’s departure marked the most dramatic change to date in Trump’s legal representation. There was a shakeup earlier in the year, though, when another member of the special counsel defense team, Evan Corcoran, recused from working on the classified documents probe. Corcoran had appeared twice before a federal grand jury; he continued to represent Trump in other matters, including the election probe.
Trusty and Rowley, both former federal prosecutors, are based in Washington. Halligan is in Florida. Todd Blanche, another former federal prosecutor hired in April to represent Trump against an indictment on unrelated state charges in New York, has expanded his portfolio to also work on issues related to the special counsel investigations.
Boris Epshteyn, a top adviser and legal counsel to Trump, has been involved in the ongoing efforts to consider options to add to the special counsel team, one of the people familiar with the situation said. Epshteyn, who has been represented by Blanche, referred a request for comment to a Trump spokesperson. Parlatore has publicly described tension with Epshteyn, a narrative that a Trump spokesperson at the time pushed back on as “unfounded and categorically false.”
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