Former President Donald Trump abruptly shook up his Georgia legal team just hours before he is expected to be booked at Fulton County jail, replacing prominent attorney Drew Findling with high-profile attorney Steven Sadow.
Sadow, a well-known lawyer in the state, will assume the role of lead on the case for Trump, who was indicted last week over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, according to ABC News.
“I have been retained to represent President Trump in the Fulton County, Georgia, case,” Sadow said in a statement. “The President should never have been indicted. He is innocent of all the charges brought against him. We look forward to the case being dismissed or, if necessary, an unbiased, open minded jury finding the President not guilty.
“Prosecutions intended to advance or serve the ambitions and careers of political opponents of the President have no place in our justice system,” he concluded.
Findling served as Trump’s lead attorney in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ years-long investigation into the former president and his allies’ alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election in the state. Another attorney on the case, Jennifer Little, is expected to maintain her role and work with Sadow.
Georgia State Law professor Anthony Michael Kreis warned that it may not have been a good idea to swap lawyers ahead of Thursday’s booking.
“I’m not here to offer Trump advice… this is a mistake IMHO,” Kreis said on X, formerly Twitter. “Drew Findling was the best lawyer he had.”
Based on Sadow’s statement, Kreis predicted that Trump’s defense in the trial would amount to “a dual legal defense/campaign event.”
“Sure hope he demanded full payment upfront,” quipped national security lawyer Bradley Moss.
For now, Trump’s remaining legal teams, which are managing federal cases brought by special counsel Jack Smith and another state case from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, will remain intact, the sources told ABC News.
The former president is one of 19 defendants charged in Willis’ expansive racketeering indictment, which accuses the group of Trump lawyers and associates — along with a swath of unindicted co-conspirators — of orchestrating a conspiracy to reverse Trump’s 2020 election loss. Trump maintains that his actions were not illegal and has assailed the probe as politically motivated.
According to The New York Times, nearly half of the 19 defendants had been booked at the Fulton County Jail as of Thursday morning. Trump, whose bail was set at $200,000 on Tuesday, is expected to turn himself in to authorities in Fulton County Thursday evening.
Three defendants in the case — former Trump lawyer Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and former Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer — are requesting to have their cases moved to federal court. Kenneth Chesebro, another defendant, filed a speedy-trial demand on Wednesday, under which the trial for all 19 people charged would be required to begin no later than Nov. 3, a date far earlier than what prosecutors in Willis’ office sought. Her office has requested that arraignments occur the week of Sept. 5.
Trump has gone through a number of lawyers during his decades in New York’s real estate scene and more recently in his political career. He’s gained a reputation around his refusal to pay his legal counsel for their work but is paying his representation in his ongoing criminal cases. The payments have come from his political action committee, Save America’s, funding, which is comprised of donations his supporters made in the aftermath of the 2020 election after he appealed to them through widely debunked claims of voter fraud.
Sadow is considered one of Atlanta’s most talented criminal defense attorneys by many in its legal community. He, like Findling, has represented celebrity clients, including rappers T.I., Rick Ross and Gunna as well as R&B singer Usher.
His representation of Gunna revolved around another high-profile racketeering case. In December, the rapper, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in the Fulton County gang case against Atlanta hip-hop collective Young Slime Life, or YSL, founded by rapper Young Thug. As part of his plea, Kitchens admitted that YSL functions as a street gang, a spokesman for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office told the Times.
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As part of the agreement, Kitchens entered into an Alford plea, which permits defendants to maintain their innocence while pleading guilty. He was sentenced to a five-year prison stint but was released after one year of the sentence was commuted to time served. The other four years were suspended.
Other noteworthy clients of Sadow’s included Howard K. Stern, the boyfriend of Anna Nicole Smith, who was accused of participating in a prescription drug conspiracy before her death. Stern’s conviction in the case was later overturned.
Trump chose Findling to lead the Georgia leg of his legal team last summer. The self-proclaimed “#BillionDollarLawyer” with a reputation as a skilled attorney has also represented high-profile clients, including Cardi B, Gucci Mane and the Migos.
Before his hiring, Findling was a frequent critic of Trump on social media, referring to him in 2018 as “the racist architect of fraudulent Trump University.”
As a lawyer for the former president, Findling has since fervently defended him. Ahead of Trump’s Georgia indictment he and the rest of his team filed a series of motions aiming to have evidence collected by a special grand jury thrown out, and to have Willis removed from the case. But his efforts were futile as the courts ruled that Trump lacked the legal standing to back the challenges because he had not yet been charged.
Sadow has also previously taken a stance against the former president, writing in a 2017 Twitter exchange that he was “not a DT supporter.”
Though he called Sadow’s hiring a “smart move,” former federal prosecutor Elie Honig suggested that Trump’s constant cycling through representation could create future chaos for his various legal teams in a Thursday morning appearance on CNN.
“Yeah, so it’s a smart move,” he began. “You need a local lawyer and this case is going to play out in Georgia. It’s smart to get someone who knows the court system and who really frankly can relate to the jury. Juries look for that and they can sense is this person from here? Is this someone we are going to inherently believe? That’s a factor.”
“Donald Trump does have to make sure — he has four pending cases — he has to get his legal team in order,” Honig continued. “You can’t shuffle in and out lead lawyers on each case sort of on a whim, you know, the way some White House staff were shuffled in and out on a whim.”
“This is different,” he said. “Those lawyers are going to spend hundreds, thousands of hours getting to know all of the nuances of this case. If you just cashier one to another, you are setting yourself up for a major failure. If I was advising him on all of these I’d say pick your lead guy on each case, stick with him, let him do his job.”
about the Fulton case