As the saying goes, anyone who represents themselves has a fool for their client. Still, Donald Trump seems to think he's smarter than his lawyers. In the affair surrounding the safekeeping of secret documents at his Florida home, the former president repeatedly rebuffed his legal representatives and advisors when they tried to persuade him to return the sensitive material in order to minimize the legal consequences, the Washington Post reports ", citing seven Republican advisers.
Since the National Archives first requested that Trump provide documents from his tenure in February 2021, until the indictment by a grand jury in Miami a few days ago, the 77-year-old had been "extremely stubborn" when it came to dealing with government officials to negotiate, writes the newspaper. He has repeatedly refused to return the files, even when some of his senior advisers warned of the danger and some even flew to Mar-a-Lago to ask him personally.
When one of his attorneys, Christopher Kise, suggested in the fall of 2022 that they quietly meet with the Justice Department, promise investigators professional action and turn over all papers, and negotiate a settlement that could avoid indictment, Trump rejected the offer According to the Washington Post plan. Instead, he said he followed the advice of Tom Fitton, chairman of the conservative group Judicial Watch, to keep the classified information and fight the Department's efforts to get it back.
According to the paper, Kise's proposal was one of many occasions when lawyers and advisers tried in vain to persuade Trump to take a more cooperative stance. However, he regularly quoted Fitton to them, who took the view that Trump's lawyers should have defended themselves more aggressively against the investigation. Several whistleblowers told the newspaper that they blame Fitton for believing Trump had the right to keep the classified files.
"Trump doesn't like to listen to his lawyers," said New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Maggie Haberman last August. It would take a lot of effort for his legal representatives to get the Republican to follow their advice. That was the case long before Trump's presidency.
As of Tuesday, Trump became the first former president in the history of the United States to be indicted in a federal court. He is accused of conspiring to obstruct investigations and illegally storing highly sensitive information – a total of 37 offences. According to the indictment, Trump kept boxes of classified information in his bedroom, a bathroom, a shower, a ballroom and a storage room. Some boxes would have stood temporarily in a room where public events were taking place. A storage room was easily accessible via a public pool area.
Trump has pleaded "not guilty" and sees the charges as a politically motivated attempt by the Democrats to keep him from a second term in the White House. He speaks of "political contract killing" and "waging war" with legal means. He insulted the special counsel in the case, Jack Smith, as "insane" and "criminal".
"He is in no position to admit wrongdoing," Trump's former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, said Tuesday of his former boss. It is particularly unlikely that he will respond to requests from people or authorities he does not like. The 77-year-old wanted to keep the documents and said: "You won't tell me what to do. I'm the smartest man in the room," Kelly explained.
Perhaps Trump's lawyers were smarter in this case. Because, as informants from the Washington Post made clear, he was not charged for the documents that Trump voluntarily returned.
Sources: Washington Post, CNN.