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 and says his claims of attorney/client privilege were just an innocent attempt to sidestep a question about why he wouldn’t represent her.
If Tacopina did, national security attorney Bradley Moss argued further Twitter that it would be “ethically suspect” for him to represent Trump in the shadow of a criminal investigation into hush money payments to Daniels. Former Defense Department Special Adviser Ryan Goodman meant that the American Bar Association and New York State ethics rules clearly would not 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 candidate before his coast-to-coast prosecution for serial fraud.
However, Lemon said Daniels approached Tacopina first about the hush money issue.
“So before he was represented by Avenatti, Stormy approached you about representation,” Lemon noted. “Did you get the impression that she might have signed the NDA under duress and was she afraid for her physical safety?”
Tacopina did not dispute Lemon’s claim.
“Yes, of course, and I can’t really talk about my impressions or any conversations we had because there’s an attorney-client privilege attached even to a consultation,” Tacopina responded.
A prominent defense attorney, Tacopina has represented former Yankees third baseman 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 resume.
“I don’t have a history with Stormy Daniels,” Tacopina told Law&Crime. “She contacted my company [through] a representative and asked if I would be interested in representing her and I said no. I have never met her, spoken to her or reviewed any of her documents. This does not affect my representation of President Trump.”
Law&Crime called Daniels directly in an attempt to resolve the factual dispute, but she did not immediately return a voicemail.
In an interview, former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner said it’s “not clear to me how Tacopina could represent Trump” if Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) indicts the hush money payments, which reports indicate Bragg probably plans to do.
“He could certainly represent Trump with respect to the E. Jean Carroll case, which is not with a former client and not materially related to anything he’s done before,” Epner said.
However, Tacopina has taken to the television rounds in defense of Trump on Bragg’s investigation, claiming Daniels was involved in “blackmail.”
Even on the air, Epner notes, the ethical rules apply.
“The ethical rules applicable to lawyers in New York preclude him from making any public comments about anything materially related to what she consulted him on, even if they did not end up forming an attorney-client relationship,” noted he.
In an email to Law&Crime late Friday, Tacopina said there is no conflict and there was no attorney-client relationship.
“I have neither met Stormy Daniels nor reviewed her documents,” he said. “Instead, someone asked on her behalf if I would represent her, and of course I declined the request.
I avoided what was an unexpected question by giving an answer that lacked clarity. But for the sake of clarity now, please note that I never said he spoke to or met Stormy Daniels. And that’s because I didn’t. My invoking the attorney-client privilege was just meant to end the investigation because someone on behalf of Stormy Daniels asked if I wanted to represent her and I didn’t want to discuss the case on TV. However, these circumstances do not give rise to an attorney-client relationship in any form.”
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