James Trusty, attorney for Donald Trump, appears on “Meet the Press” in Washington, DC, April 9, 2023.
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An attorney who quit the team defending Donald Trump in the criminal classified documents case said Friday he would no longer represent the former president in a separate defamation lawsuit against CNN.
The lawyer, Jim Trusty, said in a court filing that his request to withdraw from the $475 million civil suit “is based upon irreconcilable differences” with Trump.
“Counsel can no longer effectively and properly represent Plaintiff,” Trusty wrote in the filing in US District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Neither Trusty nor lawyers for CNN immediately responded to requests for comment on Trusty’s move to withdraw as Trump’s counsel.
Lindsey Halligan, Trump’s remaining attorney in the defamation case, referred CNBC to the former president’s spokesman Steven Cheung, who said the defamation suit is “entering a new phase as more irrefutable facts are revealed.”
“We thank Mr. Trusty for his work on this case and wish him all the best,” Cheung said.
A week earlier, Trusty and another lawyer, John Rowley, tendered their resignations as Trump’s counsel in the federal criminal case that had just resulted in his indictment on charges related to his post-presidency efforts to keep a raft of classified documents at his resort home Mar-a-Lago.
“Now that the case has been filed in Miami, this is a logical moment for us to step aside and let others carry the cases through to completion,” Trusty and Rowley said in that statement.
Four days later, Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 counts including retaining national defense records, concealing documents and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The attorneys’ statement also noted they would no longer defend Trump in another ongoing federal criminal investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. US Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith oversaw both probes.
They bear little resemblance to Trump’s civil defamation suit against CNN, which was filed in October.
Trump, who has a long track record of attacking media outlets and specific reporters over coverage he dislikes, accused CNN of running a “smear campaign” against him, including by comparing him to Adolf Hitler.
The lawsuit homed in on CNN’s frequent invocation of the Big Lie, a term used to refer to a variety of false claims of election fraud Trump and his allies have peddled as they claim President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory was rigged.
“The ‘Big Lie’ is a direct reference to a tactic employed by Adolf Hitler and appearing in Hitler’s Mein Kampf,” asserted the complaint from Trump’s legal team, which at the time included Trusty.
CNN in November asked the court to dismiss the case, calling Trump’s claims “untenable and repugnant to a free press and open political debate.”
The outlet noted Trump’s lawsuit hinges on just five CNN pieces. It was argued that none of them suggested he “has the character of Hitler.”
Trump’s complaint suggested CNN was defaming him to undermine his potential candidacy in the next presidential election. Trump launched his 2024 campaign the next month, and he has consistently led the Republican primary field in the polls.
Trump seeks $475 million in punitive damages and more than $75,000 in compensatory damages.