A conflict inside former President Donald J. Trump’s legal team erupted into public view on Saturday as one of his former lawyers went on television to attack one of his current lawyers, who has been the focus of ire from others on the team.
The former lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, withdrew this past week from representing Mr. Trump in the special counsel’s investigations into his handling of classified documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But Mr. Parlatore did not explain the reasons behind his departure at the time, saying only that it was not related to the merits of the inquiries.
Appearing on CNN on Saturday, Mr. Parlatore disclosed that his departure had been spurred by irreconcilable differences with Boris Epshteyn, another lawyer who has been working as something akin to an in-house counsel for the former president, hiring lawyers and coordinating their efforts to defend Mr. Trump.
Mr. Parlatore described how Mr. Epshteyn had hindered him and other lawyers from getting information to Mr. Trump, leaving the former president’s legal team at a disadvantage in dealing with the Justice Department, which is scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving office and his efforts to remain in office after losing the 2020 election.
“As I said at the time, it had nothing to do with the case itself or the client,” Mr. Parlatore said. “There are certain individuals that made defending the president much harder than it needed to be.”
He named Mr. Epshteyn in particular.
“He did everything he could do to try to block us,” Mr. Parlatore said, adding that it’s “difficult enough fighting against D.O.J.” but that when colleagues are “trying to undermine you, to block you,” that it made it “so I can’t do what I need to do as a lawyer.”
It was “ultimately not in the client’s best interest,” he said, adding that Mr. Epshteyn was “not very honest with us or the client” on certain things.
Most notably, Mr. Parlatore singled out Mr. Epshteyn as trying to keep the team from conducting additional searches of Mr. Trump’s properties after the F.B.I. executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, and discovered more than 100 additional classified documents.
Mr. Parlatore also mocked Mr. Epshteyn’s limited legal experience, saying he spent 18 months as a corporate lawyer and that based on that experience, he “knows better than all of us.”
Still, Mr. Parlatore left open the possibility of returning to Mr. Trump’s legal team if certain changes were made.
“If the lawyers are allowed to be lawyers without obstruction from people like Boris Epshteyn,” he said, “I would be happy to go back.”
A spokesperson for Mr. Trump said, “Mr. Parlatore is no longer a member of the legal team. His statements regarding current members of the legal team are unfounded and categorically false.”
Before making his appearance on TV, Mr. Parlatore spoke with Mr. Trump, telling him that Mr. Epshteyn’s handling of the defense team increased the risk that federal prosecutors would file charges, according to two people familiar with the matter.
That warning came after an earlier attempted intervention by several of Mr. Trump’s lawyers with their client over Mr. Epshteyn’s involvement. The lawyers cited what they described as Mr. Epshteyn’s penchant for delivering good news despite grim circumstances, as well as a bottleneck he had created in talking with Mr. Trump about cases.
News of the dissension among the lawyers representing Mr. Trump emerged at an especially delicate moment — just as the Justice Department’s special counsel, Jack Smith, appears to be wrapping up his sprawling grand jury investigations and approaching a decision about whether to file indictments against Mr. Trump in the documents and election interference cases.
With Mr. Parlatore gone, two other lawyers — James Trusty and John Rowley — have taken the lead in representing Mr. Trump in the special counsel’s inquiries.
Mr. Rowley declined on Saturday to comment on Mr. Parlatore’s remarks. Mr. Trusty did not respond to efforts to reach him seeking comment.
Mr. Trump also faces an array of other legal problems, including his indictment in a hush money case in New York and a pending investigation in Georgia into election interference.
The former president appeared on CNN as well on May 10, refusing to give a clear answer at a town hall event when asked if he had ever showed classified documents to anyone after leaving office.
Mr. Parlatore sought to clarify that issue on Saturday, saying that Mr. Trump’s legal team had “no evidence to suggest that he showed classified documents to anyone.”
He added that he did not believe charges would ultimately be filed in the documents inquiry.