“Prosecutors Ask if Trump Will Blame His Lawyers as Defense in Election Case”


Federal prosecutors asked a judge on Tuesday to force former President Donald J. Trump to tell them months before he goes to trial on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election whether he intends to defend himself by blaming the stable of lawyers around him around at the time for giving him poor legal advice.

In a motion filed to the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, the prosecutors sought an order that would compel Mr. Trump to tell them by Dec. 18 if he plans to pursue the blame-the-lawyers strategy — known as an advice of counsel defense — at his federal election interference trial, which is now set to begin in March in Federal District Court in Washington.

Both Mr. Trump and his current team of lawyers have “repeatedly and publicly announced” that they were going to use such arguments as “a central component of his defense,” prosecutors told Judge Chutkan in their filing. They said they wanted a formal order forcing Mr. Trump to tell them his plans by mid-December “to prevent disruption of the pretrial schedule and delay of the trial.”

The early notification could also give prosecutors a tactical edge in the case. Defendants who pursue advice of counsel arguments waive the shield of attorney-client privilege that would normally protect their dealings with their lawyers. And, as prosecutors reminded Judge Chutkan, if Mr. Trump heads in this direction, he would have to give them not only all of the “communications or evidence” concerning the lawyers he plans to use as part of his defense, but also any “otherwise-privileged communications” that might be used to undermine his claims.

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