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Areeba Shah

Legal expert: Trump needs a new lawyer

Stormy Daniels, whose hush-money payment is at the center of the ongoing Manhattan investigation into former President Donald Trump, handed over communications between her and Trump's lawyer to District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office on Wednesday, according to CNN

The communications between her and Joe Tacopina are said to date back to 2018, when Daniels was seeking legal representation. Her lawyer, Clark Brewster, said Daniels had disclosed confidential information to Tacopina about her situation involving the former president.

This has raised questions as to whether the attorney could be sidelined from his defense of Trump in the hush money case.

"[The messages] could reveal a conflict of interest for the attorney, but the remedy would be to replace the attorney on the case," former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade told Salon.

She added that the court would need to determine whether Daniels was a client or prospective client and shared information with Tacopina for the purpose of obtaining legal advice.

Tacopina appeared on CNN in 2018 and suggested he had been in communication with Daniels about representing her in the hush money probe.

"I can't really talk about my impressions or any conversations we'd had because there is an attorney-client privilege that attaches even to a consultation," he said.

He has since denied that there is a conflict or that confidential information was shared with his office. 

Tacopina told The Independent on Wednesday that there "was no attorney-client relationship" and that he had never met or spoken with Daniels.

"There is no conflict, and there was no attorney-client relationship," he said. "I neither met Stormy Daniels nor reviewed her documents. Instead, someone inquired on her behalf if I would represent her, and of course I refused the request." 

He continued to defend himself on CNN earlier this week, saying his comments from the previous interview "lacked clarity".

"However, those circumstances do not give rise to an attorney-client relationship in any form," Tacopina told CNN

Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating whether Trump falsified the Trump Organization's business records when his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen made  $130,000 payments to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair she had with the former president,

While Trump has long denied any wrongdoing, Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

"Although the Stormy Daniels scandal has already broken, fresh allegations will chip away at the former President's popularity and credibility," said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. "Anything that keeps it in the news has the potential to damage the former President politically and legally."

A Twitter user on Wednesday asked Daniels if she was "still laughing," referring to the ongoing investigation into the former president. 

"You seem to have stopped tweeting obsessively about Trump but I'm sure you're having the last laugh," the user wrote. 

Daniels replied: "I'm sure I will. I've been handing over phone records to my attorney today (they're gonna hurt!) and planning spring break activities with my kid. It was a wonderful day."

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