To understand the pressures, feuds and questions about competence within former President Donald J. Trump’s legal team as he faces potential prosecution on multiple fronts, consider the experience of Eric Herschmann, a former Trump White House lawyer who has been summoned to testify to a federal grand jury.
For weeks this summer, Mr. Herschmann tried to get specific guidance from Mr. Trump’s current lawyers on how to handle questions from prosecutors that raise issues of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.
After ignoring Mr. Herschmann or giving him what he seemed to consider perplexing answers to the requests for weeks, two of the former president’s lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran and John Rowley, offered him only broad instructions in late August. Assert sweeping claims of executive privilege, they advised him, after Mr. Corcoran had suggested that an unspecified “chief judge” would ultimately validate their belief that a president’s powers extend far beyond their time in office.
Mr. Herschmann, who served on Mr. Trump’s first impeachment defense team but later opposed efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election, was hardly reassured and sounded confused by the reference to a chief judge.
“I will not rely on your say-so that privileges apply here and be put in the middle of a privilege fight between D.O.J. and President Trump,” Mr. Herschmann, a former prosecutor, responded in an email, referring to the Justice Department. The exchange was part of a string of correspondence in which, after having his questions ignored or having the lawyers try to speak directly with him on the phone instead, Mr. Herschmann questioned the competence of the lawyers involved. [Continue reading…]