Donald Trump’s bombastic attorney in his defense against his high-profile indictment once donated to the campaign of a Democrat who moved to prosecute Trump during his presidency.
Joe Tacopina, the lead defense attorney in the latest case against the former president, has not been a prolific donor to political campaigns, but those he has made have been bipartisan.
In 2010, Tacopina gave to then-Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., a former prosecutor who later sent a criminal referral to the FBI requesting they investigate Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
The phone call, in which Trump pressured Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to overturn the presidential election, is now being investigated by the Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.
While it’s not clear in this case, such criminal referrals are considered to carry significant weight with the FBI and often trigger investigations.
The $1,500 campaign donation to Rice is Tacopina’s second largest, behind a contribution of $1,721 to Jeanine Piro, the conservative host of Fox News’ “Judge Jeanine.”
Rice, who retired from Congress last year, has not publicly commented on Trump’s indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Neither Rice nor Tacopina immediately responded to requests for comment.
Tacopina’s often colorful defense of the former president enjoys Trump’s enthusiastic support but has drawn criticism from other sources, including Trump’s own legal team. Last month, Tacopina got in a heated altercation with MSNBC host Ari Melber over Trump’s hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels, culminating in an attempt by Tacopina to grab Melber’s papers during an interview.
Trump’s other attorneys have expressed frustration with Tacopina’s “antics,” Rolling Stone reported this weekend.
“Tacopina is to the defense bar what Donald Trump is to real estate … clever but focused on his image,” the New York Times reported in 2005, long before Tacopina began representing Trump.
Tacopina’s penchant for flashy suits once prompted the foreman in a trial in which he was defending a mob-linked bookkeeper to remark, “The lawyer’s wearing $2,000 suits and I wouldn’t be surprised if the mob is paying for the defense.”
Tacopina, who began his career working on mob boss John Gotti’s case when he was in law school, has said that today he refuses to take mob money. “I probably gave up a couple million in fees just last year, turning this stuff down,” Tacopina lamented to GQ in a 2007 interview. “But I just won’t do it anymore.”
Reactions to Tacopina are not all negative. In 2018, the New York state Senate issued a commendation for Tacopina’s recognition by the Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn.