(NEW YORK) — Long before he began representing Donald Trump, former president of the United States, defense attorney John Lauro described one aspect of his job as a “subtle dance.”
“I want to be careful in what I say. Most of my clients are accused of white-collar offenses, where oftentimes it’s not clear whether or not they are legally guilty,” he told The New York Times in a 2007 article, when asked if he valued taking on clients who were innocent.
“It makes no difference to me, in terms of my defense, whether they are or not. But it’s a subtle dance,” he said then.
Once thing that did matter to Lauro, he suggested, was working on polarizing — even infamous — legal matters.
“When somebody takes a position that is unpopular, to me, there is nothing more thrilling than doing that. Sometimes the more unpopular the better,” he told The New York Times, “because that really goes to the core of who you are as a lawyer.”
In a separate interview with The Tampa Bay Times in 2007, Lauro said he wasn’t fazed by the response to his work: “I’ve never been swayed by public reaction.”
A former federal prosecutor and New York native, Lauro has for years built his reputation from Tampa, Florida, where he leads an eponymous firm and has “represented everyone from a Wall Street businessman accused of working with the Mafia to an unhappy diner who skipped out on his bill because he was displeased with the amount of seafood on his pasta,” The Tampa Bay Times once wrote.
(The diner was acquitted after a brief jury deliberation.)
“This is my life,” Lauro told the Tampa paper in 2007. “It’s my passion.”
Lauro joined Trump’s defense team earlier this summer, the latest in Trump’s long list of legal representatives, as the former president has struggled to secure attorneys to keep up with the mounting criminal charges he is facing, all of which he denies.
Lauro represented Trump in court last week as Trump was arraigned in the nation’s capital on charges related to allegations that he plotted to subvert the 2020 election in order to remain in power after being defeated.
Trump pleaded not guilty and claimed to reporters afterward that he was being politically persecuted.
Lauro, who has also represented Trump adviser Christina Bobb and lawyer Alina Habba in connection with special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 investigation, has assailed Smith’s case in the press.
“The government will never be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump had corrupt or criminal intent. And that’s what this case is about,” Lauro said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The defense has no obligation to prove anything. We put the government to its test. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump had criminal intent,” he said.
That was one of five same-day appearances by Lauro on the major Sunday public news shows, reflecting the bright new spotlight on him.
Smith has defended the Department of Justice’s work.
“My office will seek a speedy trial so that our evidence can be tested in court and judged by a jury of citizens,” he said in a brief statement last week. Smith also urged the public to read the indictment in the case “in full.”
In the federal election interference case in Washington, Trump faces four charges: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.
“Each of these conspiracies—which built on the widespread mistrust the Defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud—targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election,” prosecutors alleged in the indictment.
According to the biography on his law firm’s website, Lauro is an alumnus of Georgetown University Law Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York; before and after that, he worked in private practice.
He told The New York Times in 2007 that he had been inspired to the law by the famous play “Inherit the Wind,” about the 1925 trial of a teacher in Tennessee who was challenging a law against education about human evolution.
As a prosecutor, Lauro worked on a Pentagon corruption case, according to The New York Times.
As a defense attorney, his subsequent work has varied widely among white-collar defendants: The website of his firm, Lauro & Singer, states that the cases they have taken on range from “foreign and domestic bribery” to “money laundering and racketeering, public corruption” and more.
Lauro has been publicly praised by some associates and former clients.
“Mr. Trump is in great hands having John on his side, because he’s going to fight tirelessly on his behalf,” one former client, Tim Donaghy, told The Washington Post.
Donaghy is a disgraced former NBA referee who illegally bet on games. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to transmit wagering information.
In a 2010 book about his legal ordeal and scandal, Donaghy described meeting Lauro for the first time, writing that Lauro seemed “confident and unflappable,” with a “sparkle in his eye [that] betrayed an affection for the high-profile, publicity generating criminal caper” and a “reputation as the man to see when the feds were breathing down your neck.”
“The man had years of experience and tons of talent, and besides, a little recognition is always good for business, not to mention a healthy ego,” Donaghy wrote then.
In a 2022 Netflix documentary looking back at Donaghy’s case, Lauro said he approached his work tenaciously — a view echoed by Christopher Kise, another Trump attorney, who recently told The New York Times that Lauro had “an eye for critical details” and was “masterful at cross-examination.”
“My strategy always coming into a case, instinctually, is to fight,” Lauro said in the Netflix documentary. “I don’t like cooperating. I like fighting. I like going to trial.”
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