“This is incredible”: Legal scholar uncovers Trump lawyer’s ethical conflict in Stormy Daniels case

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina may be violating ethics rules by representing the former president in a case involving adult film star Stormy Daniels, according to a legal expert.

Tacopina made the rounds on television this week to accuse Daniels of “extortion” in the $130,000 hush money payment during the 2016 campaign and argued that Trump was the real “victim” in the case. But New York University Law Prof. Ryan Goodman discovered that Tacopina “has had an attorney-client relationship” with Daniels because she once reached out to him about representation, and his representation of Trump in the case may violate American Bar Association and New York state ethics rules.

“Difficult to see how he can represent Trump; call Daniel’s claim of affair untrue; call her an extortionist (and Trump the victim),” Goodman wrote on Twitter.

Goodman cited Tacopina’s March 2018 discussion with CNN’s Don Lemon.

Lemon during the segment noted that before Daniels was represented by attorney Michael Avenatti, she “approached you about representation.”

“Did you get any impression that she may have signed NDA under duress and was she afraid for her physical safety?” Lemon asked.

“Yes, of course, and I can’t really talk about my impressions or any conversations we had because there is an attorney-client privilege that attaches even to a consultation,” Tacopina replied.

During another segment with Lemon that same month, Tacopina acknowledged that he was contacted by Daniels but said he couldn’t say “anything further.”

Tacopina did not represent Daniels but Goodman said that the ABA’s Rule 1.18, which covers duties to a prospective client, had “already kicked in — which he acknowledged.”

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Attorney Bradley Moss agreed that Tacopina’s representation of Trump in the Daniels hush money payment case is “ethically suspect.”

“Just when you think you’ve seen everything,” tweeted conservative attorney George Conway, a frequent Trump critic. “This is incredible.”

It’s unclear what this could mean for Tacopina’s role in the Manhattan investigation but MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin, a former attorney, suggested that it could be why Daniels met with prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office this week.

“My understanding is that potential conflicts of interest can be and sometimes are discussed with a target or witness’s counsel in advance of indictment. But there’s no action that can be taken until the case is charged,” Rubin explained on Twitter. “But after indictment, prosecutors will identify a perceived conflict for the judge and ask for a resolution. Why? Because conflicts implicate a defendant’s constitutional right to counsel, and prosecutors want a clean, fair trial with as few avenues for appeals as possible.”

Rubin added that given Tacopina’s “lasting, ethical obligations” to Daniels, Manhattan prosecutors might have wanted to “prepare by confirming the nature of their prior communications, what confidences were shared, etc. Watch this space.”

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