A former prosecutor with a background in medieval history will play a prominent role in President Donald Trump’s legal defense during the ongoing Russia probe, lawyers for the president confirmed Wednesday.
Andrew Ekonomou, 69, had been part of a small team of attorneys helping Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump, in his handling of matters regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ekonomou, however, will now play a more significant role on the team, Sekulow told NBC News Wednesday.
Ty Cobb, another top member of Trump’s legal team, told NBC News that Ekonomou has played a significant role throughout the process and that his role would increase following the departure of one of Trump's top attorneys, John Dowd, last week.
Cobb added that he had no personnel announcements to make regarding any new additions to Trump’s legal team.
News of Ekonomou’s elevation was first reported by Reuters.
The move comes amid turmoil and reshuffling in Trump’s legal team. Dowd's exit last week came just days after Trump hired Joseph diGenova — a longtime Washington lawyer and former U.S. attorney who has promoted a conspiracy theory that officials in the FBI and Justice Department are plotting to frame the president with a "false crime."
Then, on Sunday, Sekulow announced that Trump would no longer be adding diGenova, or another lawyer, Victoria Toensing, due to “conflicts.”
In the days since, Trump has been turned down by several lawyers, including, as NBC News reported Monday, Dan Webb and Tom Buchanan. Both cited business conflicts as the reason they could not represent the president. Trump tweeted Sunday that "many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case."
Ekonomou, a member of an Atlanta-based firm called Lambros Firm LLC, that handles civil and criminal racketeering cases for district attorneys around the state, worked at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta in the 1970s and 1980s as the head of the criminal division and briefly served as acting U.S. Attorney in 1982, Reuters reported.
He told Reuters that he went back to school following what he said was a "mid-life crisis" and earned a doctorate in medieval history at Emory University in 2000.
Ekonomou told the news agency that he is the author of a book on Byzantine Rome and the Greek popes.
He said he’d been working on Sekulow’s team since June, and contended he was qualified to help defend the President of the United States.
"I’ve been tested plenty of times," he told Reuters. "Just because you’re not a Beltway lawyer doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing."
He said that, in his job at Atlanta, he’d prosecuted "a lot of murders for the D.A,” but replied, "that’s basically it, nothing earth shaking" when he was asked if he’d worked on any big cases lately.