(CNN) A relationship between adult film star Stormy Daniels and an attorney who now represents her Former President Donald Trump have been redirected to the Manhattan District Attorney’s OfficeDaniels’ attorney told CNN.
The exchanges — which date back to 2018, when Daniels sought representation — raise the possibility that Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacobina, may be sidelined from defending the former president in a case related to Trump’s role. Relaxed payment plan to Daniels.
According to Clark Brewster, Daniels’ current attorney, Daniels’ communications with Tacopina and others in his company included details regarding Daniels’ situation.
Tacobina denies there was a conflict or that confidential information was shared with his office. He says he has never met or spoken to Daniels.
CNN has not seen the records in question. But legal ethics experts told CNN that Tacobina’s role in the investigation could be limited or even disqualified. Ethics experts said the impact of disclosure on a case depends on the circumstances and the content of the communication.
An examination of Daniels’ alleged interactions with Tacobina and his company underscores how the Trump team is already bent on how they approach the years-long investigation, even before any charges against Trump are formally laid.
Although the investigation is over and there are signs that an indictment is being prepared, it is still unclear when Trump will be charged or when those charges will be released.
Brewster told CNN that Tacobina has turned over communications from Daniels to prosecutors after Tacobina made public statements that Brewster believes contradict what was evident in his companies’ emails with Tacobina and Daniels.
If Trump is sued, it will ultimately be up to a judge to decide whether the communications constitute a conflict of interest that would require disqualification or any other limitations on the advocacy Dacopina can do on behalf of the former president.
A 2018 television interview Tacobina did with CNN’s Dan Lemon has resurfaced in recent days, in which Tacobina suggested he may have had an affair with Daniels before finding another attorney in the hush money affair that was the focus of a federal investigation at the time. .
“I can’t really talk about my impressions or the conversations we had because there’s an attorney-client privilege that even attaches to a consultation,” Tacobina said in a 2018 interview. As the old interview clip began making the rounds again, Dacopina’s firm released a statement this weekend that said there was “no attorney-client relationship” — a position Dacopina stands by today.
On Tuesday, Tacobina told CNN that her 2018 interview comments were “not clear,” and that she “invoked attorney-client privilege on TV to stop the trial because someone asked if I would represent Stormy Daniels. And I don’t want to discuss this matter on TV.”
“However, those circumstances do not constitute an attorney-client relationship in any form,” Tacobina said Tuesday.
Rules for Attorneys and Prospective Clients
A key question to be thrown out if Trump is indicted and goes to trial is whether Daniels’ alleged ties to Tacobina and his firm made him a prospective client.
Under the New York Bar Rules, “a lawyer who has learned information from a prospective client shall not use or disclose that information,” even if no attorney-client relationship is established.
If Daniels shared confidential information with Dacopina, it could lead to him — or even his company — being barred from cross-examining Daniels if he were to be called as a witness in a hypothetical impeachment trial against Trump.
According to legal experts, Tacobina will not be allowed to use as a witness any information she received from Daniels, and Trump may try to screen what she knows from others on the team.
According to Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor who has written extensively on legal ethics and rules, attorneys or Daniels must raise objections to cross-examining him or his firm. The judge will then decide on the matter.
Another rule of legal ethics relevant in this situation, Gillers said, is that a lawyer acting as a witness in a trial cannot also act as a lawyer. That means if Dacopina has information that contradicts Daniels’ testimony or undermines her credibility, she cannot act as a witness even as Trump’s attorney.
Gillers said Dacopina should be a witness for his disqualification. “He must have the judge present with such important testimony that the witness-attorney rule disqualifies him.”
The ethics rules are designed to protect not just Daniels, but Trump as well, said Fordham Law School professor Bruce Greene, who directs the university’s Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics. Trump may be placed in an unfair position if he feels that because of his contact with Daniels, his lawyer will have to pull his punches in his defense.
However, Green called the disqualification question a “bad if you do, bad if you don’t” question for judges because disqualifying a lawyer deprives the defendant of his counsel of choice.
Prosecutors could ask Trump to waive any potential conflict so that conflict cannot be raised as an issue if Trump is indicted, charged, and seeks an appeal.
CNN’s Paula Reid and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.