Trump replaces top Georgia lawyer ahead of surrender

CNN/ Newswire | 8/24/2023, 3:28 p.m.
Former President Donald Trump has replaced his top Georgia lawyer ahead of his surrender Thursday evening, sources tell CNN.
Drew Findling on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally Published: 24 AUG 23 07:56 ET

Updated: 24 AUG 23 14:14 ET

By Kristen Holmes and Sara Murray, CNN

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump has replaced his top Georgia lawyer ahead of his surrender Thursday evening, sources tell CNN.

In replacing Drew Findling with Steven Sadow, an Atlanta-based attorney whose website profile describes him as a “special counsel for white collar and high-profile defense,” Trump is adding an attorney who has previously challenged the state’s broad RICO law, under which Trump and his 18 co-defendants have been charged.

Sadow filed paperwork Thursday morning to formally represent the former president in the case.

A Trump source indicated that this was not about Findling’s performance, while another familiar with Sadow called him the “best criminal defense attorney in Georgia.” Trump’s other Georgia attorney, Jennifer Little, is expected to stay on the legal team and work with Sadow.

“I have been retained to represent President Trump in the Fulton County, Georgia case. The president should never have been indicted. He is innocent of all the charges brought against him,” Sadow said in a statement. “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.”

In 2021, Sadow criticized RICO charges as a way for prosecutors to introduce evidence that would otherwise not be admissible during an interview about the potential charges Trump faced in Georgia.

Sadow also represented rapper Gunna in a separate RICO case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last year that accused the rapper, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, of participating in criminal street gang activity. In December, Kitchens was released after reaching a plea deal that resulted in community service.

The abrupt switch in legal representation comes after Trump hired Findling, a prominent criminal defense attorney, to take the Fulton County case in August 2022. Findling made a number of aggressive – and ultimately unsuccessful – moves to try to have evidence in the case tossed and Willis disqualified even before she announced charges against Trump.

But Findling and Trump also drew headlines for their unlikely partnership. Findling is a self-proclaimed liberal whose prior social media posts criticizing Trump quickly drew media attention. And the Atlanta-area attorney, who earned the moniker #BillionDollarLawyer from a previous client, is better known for representing hip-hop stars like Gucci Mane and Cardi B than high-profile conservatives like Trump.

Findling could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Days before Trump revamped his legal team, Findling and his partner Marissa Goldberg, along with Little, met with Willis to hash out a $200,000 bond for Trump. The bond and other pre-negotiated conditions of Trump’s release will allow him to be quickly processed when he turns himself in at the Fulton County jail Thursday evening.

Trump is set to be booked on more than a dozen charges stemming from his efforts to reverse Georgia’s 2020 election results, the fourth time this year the former president has faced criminal charges. In Georgia, Willis, a self-proclaimed “fan” of RICO, is using the law to charge Trump and his co-defendants with an array of conduct, including making false statements, filing false documents and forgeries, impersonating officials, computer breaches and attempts to influence witnesses.

Trump has not been hesitant in shaking up his legal team in other cases. In June, he removed two of the top attorneys representing him in the federal indictment into his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

This story has been updated with additional details.