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Former President Trump's lawyer talks about his indictment in the Stormy Daniels case

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Next Tuesday, the one-time quintessential New Yorker, former President Donald Trump, will likely be returning to the city he called home for decades. Trump will be in a New York courtroom facing charges related to his alleged role in a hush money scandal with adult film star Stormy Daniels. The specific charges are still under seal. Jim Trusty is one of the lawyers representing the former president in the probe over handling of government records after leaving office, including highly classified material found at Mar-a-Lago. He joins me now. Mr. Trusty, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

JIM TRUSTY: Sure. Happy to be here. Thanks.

SUMMERS: I'd like to start just by asking you, have you spoken to the former president today? And what has he told you about these indictments?

TRUSTY: Well, that's one of those things I don't do. I suppose it's not necessarily privileged information, but it's not the kind of thing I like to divulge in terms of my clients.

SUMMERS: Are you able to confirm to us then, will former President Trump be turning himself in to the Manhattan DA on Tuesday, as has been reported in a number of publications?

TRUSTY: All right. I assume that's correct. I haven't verified that on the inside. But I've certainly heard enough public reporting to think it probably is true.

SUMMERS: When we get to that point, I understand that you don't want to divulge private conversations with the former president, but if he does indeed turn himself in on Tuesday, as we've been discussing, do you know what the process will be from that point, just from your legal experience?

TRUSTY: I mean, generally speaking, the process is pretty quick and formulaic. You know, when you're talking about an initial appearance or an arraignment, it's a question of whether you've received the charging document, and then typically a question of release or bail. I don't expect any real difficulties there in terms of, you know, President Trump walking in and walking back out. There generally is some form of booking or processing that takes place. There's little differences between how law enforcement agencies carry that out. But, you know, just to basically record the fact that there's been an accusation, he would likely have at least a little bit of time, maybe 15 minutes or so, dealing with a booking officer, just explaining who he is and providing personal information and allowing them to fill out their report.

SUMMERS: As I mentioned, the specific charges here are still under seal. We know that they are related to the former president's alleged role in paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels. But do you have any more specific information about these charges?

TRUSTY: Well, you know, it's been a series of leaks. You know, grand jury is supposed to be a secret proceeding. This indictment is supposed to be sealed and we're already talking about it. So, again, when President Trump is involved, there's apparently no real rules. Everybody breaks rules as prosecutors. And that, unfortunately, seems to be the way of the world right now. But it does give us a little bit of transparency in terms of what we think are going to be the charges. And again, it's early.

We've heard rumors of 34 counts or 30 counts. But it appears to be this - the sum and substance of it relies on a very frail legal notion that you can take this misdemeanor of false recordkeeping and somehow turn it into a felony based on a federal predicate. That's shaky. They have to do that to try to avoid the statute of limitations, because, remember, this is a case - and I put that in quotes - that the U.S. attorney's office, which is not particularly shy about looking at President Trump, shied away from because they recognized it was not a real crime. Alvin Bragg walked away from it at a previous time. But the politics apparently have changed where he wants to go forward on this thing.

And let me just say, the biggest - I mean, there's a lot of issues with it. Obviously, credibility of witnesses is a giant and I think insurmountable issue when Michael Cohen is your star witness, a convicted perjurer, disbarred felon. But the legal issue in terms of trying to establish a specific intent to support these misdemeanors is lacking. So we'll see what the indictment looks like. But it won't surprise me at all if there's a very robust, very timely motion to dismiss based on this kind of ridiculous, unheard of, unprecedented legal theory of Alvin Bragg that you can somehow infer a specific intent to defraud when there was none that ever occurred.

SUMMERS: On what grounds do you believe there will be a motion to dismiss the case to be filed, and how quickly do you think we might see something like that?

TRUSTY: Oh, on the grounds that it's a completely political persecution. So, you know, I know that the attorneys on the New York team are going to be aggressive. They're going to jump right in on this when they have a chance to review the indictment. I think they'll recognize that it's in the president's interest and the public's interest to get this to the judge on a motion to dismiss early and to have an opportunity to really stop a historic wrong with this politicized prosecution. So I think you're going to see something. I can't vouch for the exact timing, but I would say measured by days or weeks rather than weeks or months.

SUMMERS: I have a question about the timing here. Were you and other members of the former president's legal team expecting this at this point?

TRUSTY: I can't speak for the New York team directly on that. I know I was not. I was actually hopeful that somebody whispered in Alvin Bragg's ear that he's doing the country a disservice, that he's destroying the criminal justice system or beginning to destroy the system, and that somehow when they talked about a one-month break of the grand jury, that that was going to be cover for this thing to kind of fizzle out. That doesn't mean you don't keep preparing and strategizing as an attorney, and I'm sure the New York team has been doing that. But I was certainly caught off-guard. I had the hopes that justice was going to prevail early, rather than going through this process of having to litigate it in court.

SUMMERS: This is a possibility that we have heard the former president talk about. He has raised it on his social media accounts, including the platform Truth Social. I'd like to ask you, to your mind, do you believe that former President Trump respects the authority of the courts?

TRUSTY: I do think he respects the authority of the courts. I mean, this is someone who, part of the success of his campaign has been talking about which justices he'd put on the Supreme Court. So I think he's very cognizant of the importance of the judiciary, and he wants it to be the system that our forefathers want it to be. But everywhere you look, when it comes to the FBI conduct, DOJ conduct, Georgia, New York, you have prosecutors and investigators that break the rules to go after President Trump. So he's highly dependent on the judges right now to put the brakes to these kind of crazy things that are happening. But, you know, I think he still respects the institution. That's frankly why he's in the fight. He wants to keep the criminal justice system, what it has been for many centuries or many decades, which is really the envy of the Western world.

SUMMERS: The reason why I ask about respect for the authority of the court is because I covered the Trump campaign. I have covered the presidency. And over and over again, whether it was the Mueller probe or January 6 or election interference, we heard lawyers for the former president make arguments that he should not be held to the same legal standards.

TRUSTY: Yeah. I don't know that I heard those arguments in court. What I would tell you is, you know, we look at it as a situation where nobody is trying to suggest that President Trump should be treated better than any other American citizen. But he certainly shouldn't be treated worse than any citizen. And when you have the kind of targeting, the pre-announced decision by prosecutors that they will find a crime and they will indict, you know, that's upside down. That's not justice in this country. That's not rule of law. And so all we're looking for is equality under the law, not some sort of supremacy.

SUMMERS: We have been speaking with Jim Trusty. He's one of the lawyers representing former President Donald Trump. Mr. Trusty, thank you for taking the time.

TRUSTY: Sure. Thanks for having me.

SUMMERS: In another part of the program, you can hear my conversation with former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. He testified before the Manhattan grand jury. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Karen Zamora
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Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.