Trump, Venting About Lawyer in His Criminal Trial, Seeks More Aggression

Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial had barely begun when he started to turn his anger toward his lead lawyer, Todd Blanche.

Although Mr. Blanche has been Mr. Trump’s favorite lawyer for some time, behind closed doors and in phone calls, the former president has complained repeatedly about him in recent weeks, according to four people familiar with the situation.

He has griped that Mr. Blanche, a former federal prosecutor and veteran litigator, has not been following his instructions closely, and has been insufficiently aggressive. Mr. Trump wants him to attack witnesses, attack what the former president sees as a hostile jury pool, and attack the judge, Juan M. Merchan.

Mr. Trump, who often complains about legal fees and sometimes refuses to pay them, has also wondered aloud why his lawyers cost so much, according to the people, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic.

Nearly every lawyer who has ever represented Mr. Trump has spent time in the blast zone. But as he enters the third week of his first criminal trial — one that not only threatens his campaign to become president again, but also could send him to prison — the question of whether his lawyers can win enough leeway from his desires has never loomed larger.

Mr. Trump views himself as own best legal strategist. Since becoming president, he has cast about for lawyers who would do exactly what he wanted, including helping him stay in office after he lost the 2020 election. He has vented to others that he does not have “a Roy Cohn,” a reference to his notoriously ruthless former lawyer. Mr. Cohn, who represented Mr. Trump in his formative business years, was repeatedly indicted and ultimately disbarred.

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