When you think of the kind of lawyer Trump would have you think of the crazies. Incompetent people with name recognition like Rudy Giuliani, or idiots hired because of their looks like Alina Habba. Sometimes even once respected ones you’ve heard of like Sydney Powell or John Eastman or even Alan Dershowitz who lost their way. Todd Blanche however came highly credentialed and highly respected. Now? It worth asking whether he’d up to the task at hand after all.

This Newsweek article is typical of so many others. It points out Blanche’s at best lackluster performance during the hearing on Trump’s violation of judge Merchan’s gag order. The part about the judge telling Blanche he was losing his credibility with the court has had all the legal pundits looking around for fainting couches.  To a person they were shocked, stunned, had never seen/heard of such a thing and so on. I find that rather hard to believe. I’d be willing to bet in courtrooms in towns and counties all over the country some judges admonish lawyers with similar words/phrasing. However I suppose that with high priced legal talent in big cases it probably is unusual.

One thing that really struck me yesterday was legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, Chuck Rosenberg smirking in a “can you believe this sh*t?” fashion discussing Blanche’s performance. Rosenberg is if you don’t know as bland as they come. Brilliant. Experienced and in big, huge even federal cases. And as low-key, whitebread as they come. He’s my “go to guy” when it comes to getting grounded in reality and avoiding getting carried away. Unfailingly polite and even-handed. When HE can’t contain himself and shows a “WTF was wrong with this guy?” demeanor it gets one’s attention.

Rosenberg, like so many others were shocked at Blanche being seemingly “unprepared” for yesterday’s hearing. To be fair, he might have been reluctantly doing what Trump ordered him to do. He might well, hell probably did know the judge wouldn’t buy the bullsh*t he was ordered to try and sell but if Trump demanded he say the things he did he was stuck. Still, he had to be shocked at judge Merchan’s comment, and observers said he was. Especially after the break when the exchange in question had had time to sink in.

I suppose having sold one’s soul and legal reputation to Trump and been “de-pantsed” so publicly on the national stage is a sobering thing to contemplate.  If, after representing Trump he had dreams of a career of big money defendants and huge retainers he got a brutal wake up call. I got more gentle “wake ups” back in the Corps from DIs and Troop Handlers at infantry school at Camp Pendleton. (grunt school was often, probably still is referred to as fourth phase boot camp!) I wrote earlier about Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue last night. Regarding the judge’s admonition about losing all credibility with the court Kimmel quipped Blanche’s response was: Your honor, I lost all credibility when I agreed to represent Trump!

Even last week during the jury selection, not just some of the court back and forth but the obvious inability Blanche had (like everyone else) to control his client I wondered if despite his reputation he was in over his head. THIS was someone we were told had solid gold legal credentials. Excellent performance at the vaunted SDNY. Worth every penny of the massive retainer he was said to have gotten from Trump. Blanche mind you is representing Trump in more than this specific criminal case. He’d resigned from his firm to concentrate only on defending Trump in various criminal trials.

So who is Todd Blanche?  Reuters has a short summary that only takes a minute or so to read.  As I’ve said, before going for the big bucks in the private sector at a toney law firm Blanche had built a solid reputation as a prosecutor. From Reuters:

Before entering the private sector, Blanche focused on violent crime prosecutions at the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office and was a co-chief of its branch in White Plains, New York.
As a prosecutor, he was not known for courting publicity or voicing strong political views, former colleagues said.
Reuter’s goes on to note Blanche had experience in Trump world after becoming a defense lawyer:
Blanche had previously represented several people in Trump’s orbit. While a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft – one of the oldest law firms in the U.S. – Blanche represented Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort on state fraud charges that were ultimately dismissed.
Blanche also represented former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s former associate Igor Fruman, who pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law. He has also represented Trump’s legal and political adviser Boris Ephsteyn.
However when he began to represent Trump himself Blanche left Cadwalater and started his own firm.  You should take a closer look at what I highlighted however. In particular that word “represented.” Leaving aside the cast of characters Blanche represented there’s a detail not mentioned in the article that’s pretty damned important. A detail one of the pundits I heard yesterday brought up stunned me.
Blanche has actually only handled ONE prior criminal trial as a defense lawyer!  Say what?  I’d assumed (I’ll bet most of us regular folks who’ve tried to keep up with things assumed the same thing) that before striking out on his own to be Trump’s main criminal defense lawyer Blanche had a lot more trial experience under his belt.  Now, as a prosecutor someone is bound to have some understanding of what defense lawyers do. Each side has to anticipate what the other will do in court. Still, there’s a difference between watching and doing as I’m sure you know. Many of us can relate to our own work lives and know different types of projects can turn out to require knowledge, skills and experience we thought we had but learned not so much as we thought.
Here we have some really high stakes stuff going on. And it’s only the second time Blanche has litigated a case in court as a defense lawyer. It’s possible he’s bitten off more than he can chew here. Thought he knew more than he did. Trump thought he was hiring a legal shark and he did.  It’s just that his skills as a shark might be much more suited to the prosecutor’s side of the room!
We’ll see how well (or not) Blanche handles things as we move forward. Still, it’s worth wondering if for all his reputation Blanche wasn’t such a great hire for Trump after all. In closing think about this: Imagine Trump’s reaction if he comes to believe he’s spent millions on someone who wasn’t what he was cracked up to be!  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Trump if THAT happens but the explosion would be quite spectacular to view. From a distance.
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  1. Hmm! I don’t think I’ve overestimated someone Trump would employ! They are all exactly what I expect…sometimes ETTD, but mostly, they were dead meat to begin with! Except Stormy. She’s pretty cool!!

    • No worries on that score. It’s a standard part of appeals to claim it, which is why Trump is in need of a new set of lawyers to handle his Carroll and NY state civil judgements. Kind of hard to credibly appeal ineffective counsel to the appellate judges when the lawyer doing so is the one who actually provided the “ineffective counsel.” But Blanche, as a prosecutor knows that if he loses someone else will make that argument on Trump’s behalf. It goes with the territory of being a defense counsel. Maybe he lost all perspective and absorbed enough Trumpiness to think he was invincible. But there are a couple of problems in overturning a conviction based on ineffective counsel in this case. First, so far at least Blanche hasn’t committed as far as I can tell a major f**k up. Not being adequately prepared yesterday might be borderline but there’s the real possibility that he was just following Trump’s instructions in how he handled the hearing. If so he’ll have a “memo to file”, probably notarized (two copies) filed in both his office safe and a safe deposit box if only to protect his law license. There might be several (at least) before all this is over. The main thing though is that once convicted the burden of proof on everything shifts over to Trump. Not being as good as expected is a very different thing than being incompetent, or even ineffective. Not being Clarence Darrow at his best doesn’t rate as ineffective for Blanche or any other lawyer. Sometimes a person can do a decent, even good job and simply be up against better lawyering. Not being the best lawyer on the case doesn’t qualify as ineffective counsel. The other thing that will matter is the actual evidence. Sometimes even the best of lawyers performing at their best can’t do much. Not being able to draw to an inside straight or hitting the exact number on the roulette wheel doesn’t mean ineffective counsel. If the prosecution presents a really great case and the evidence admitted was by any reasonable legal standard proper for the trial judge to allow being admitted then again, the ineffective counsel argument falls way short. It’s my sense so far that’s the case here. Only if multiple rulings of judge Merchan’s were to be highly questionable AND various arguments a competent defense counsel could have raised at the time but didn’t would an appellate court seriously consider the ineffective counsel thing. So don’t worry. Blanch is I think quite possibly not quite up to a trial of this magnitude but that’s not the same as him providing ineffective counsel.

  2. I don’t care how good a lawyer Todd Blanche is supposed to be. He’s got a POS case with an asshole for a client. No doubt Trump gets along better with Alina Habba.

    I don’t know if another lawyer could do any better.


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