Vanessa Trump has reportedly hired a criminal defense attorney to represent her in her divorce from Donald Trump Jr., a surprising choice that sparked speculation she could be drawn into special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The New York Post‘s Page Six, who on Wednesday broke the news of the couple’s impending divorce, reports that White Plains, New York-based criminal lawyer David Feureisen is representing Vanessa, according to paperwork filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday.
The choice seems particularly unusual given that the divorce is listed as “uncontested,” which means the split is amicable and there are no disputes to be resolved in court.
Neena Tankha, a celebrity divorce lawyer and partner at Warshaw Burstein LLP in New York, tells PEOPLE, “There is no explanation for retaining a criminal defense attorney for a divorce case. Even when filing an uncontested divorce, the general practice is to retain a matrimonial attorney, who is familiar with the process of obtaining a Judgment of Divorce.”
Addressing social media speculation over the Russia investigation, Tanhka says that “any theories connecting her choice of attorney to the Russian probe are misplaced, since the marital communications privilege survives the termination of the marriage.”
Vanessa Trump hired a CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER in her divorce case against Don Jr, as public reports confirm that Mueller has subpoenaed Trump Org records.
Jr *runs* Trump Org
REMINDER: there is no spousal privilege for EX-spouses.#MuellerTime https://t.co/qyPJcvW1A7
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) March 16, 2018
Yeah, it’s totally normal to have a criminal defense attorney as your divorce lawyer https://t.co/OzZ2WBoeuT
— Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) March 16, 2018
“If it’s an amicable situation you wouldn’t be highlighting the criminal aspect” https://t.co/EsQKzszAqe
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) March 16, 2018
BREAKING: Vanessa Trump has hired a criminal defense attorney to represent her in her divorce case against Donald Trump Jr., according to @PageSix. Keep in mind that spousal privilege no longer applies to Vanessa, meaning Mueller could subpoena her to testify against Don Jr.
— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) March 16, 2018
#VanessaTrump hires criminal attorney in her divorce from Jr? I smell a deal to testify !!!! #Mueller #LockHimUp
— Thea (@Thea2326) March 16, 2018
The celebrity divorce lawyer explains that as a result of the impending divorce, Vanessa will no longer be able to assert spousal testimonial immunity, which would have allowed her to avoid testifying against her husband regarding allegations he colluded with Russia.
But Tanhka says Vanessa could still refuse to answer questions about their private communications during the marriage under the marital communications privilege, which survives the split.
“She may request a kicker for her to maintain those marital communications as private after the divorce,” Tanhka explains.
The divorce bombshell comes after special counsel Mueller reportedly subpoenaed the Trump Organization, which Trump Jr. and younger brother Eric took over after their father became president. The New York Times reported Thursday that Mueller is ordering the company to turn over documents, including some related to Russia.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in her Thursday press briefing that the president is cooperating with the investigation and referred further questions to the Trump Organization.
Over the summer, Trump Jr. found himself at the center of a firestorm after it was revealed that he took a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on his father’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. made matters worse for himself when he tweeted screen shots of the email chain, exposing his glee (“I love it”) over the prospect of learning damaging information about Clinton. Hours later, Trump Jr. went on Fox News’ Hannity and said, “In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.”
Mueller’s probe has gradually been closing in on the president’s inner circle and, according to recent reports from The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, is still intensely focused on figuring out what happened during the meeting, as well as investigating President Trump’s claim that the discussion was about American adoptions of Russian children.