Donald Trump is the world’s worst client. That’s it, that’s the tweet.
The former president never follows advice of counsel; surrounds himself with sycophants who encourage his worst impulses; regularly confesses to crimes on social media; and demands that his attorneys embarrass themselves with insane arguments if not outright lies to the court. And today’s orgy of clusterfuckery in an attempt to bury some very BAD FACTS for Trump’s legal team is a perfect illustration of this iron law.
This morning, the Washington Post reported that Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the US District Court of DC told Trump’s legal team to go back and search more to ensure that the former president wasn’t storing additional classified documents in his pool locker or anywhere else. Attorney Chris Kise, the former Florida solicitor general who found himself sidelined from the Mar-a-Lago documents case after advising his client to turn the temperature down and just give the government back its stuff, finally succeeded in convincing the Trump team to hire an outside firm to scour his properties for anything that belongs to Uncle Sam. After a search of Trump Tower in New York and his golf club in Bedminster, Trump received a clean bill of health, the Post informed us at 5am.
And that was true, strictly speaking. But it wasn’t complete, as later reporting from the New York Times and CNN confirmed. In fact, four properties were searched, including a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Florida where the team found two additional documents bearing classified markings. Oopsies!
This puts Trump’s attorneys Jim Trusty, Timothy Parlatore, and Evan Corcoran, who are handling the dispute over the wrongfully retained documents, in an awkward position. Because they spent close to a year, first attesting that there were no documents retained before the FBI executed the warrant, and afterward touting both their client’s exquisite cooperation with the DOJ and the completeness of their own subsequent search for additional documents. All of which turned out to be … less than wholly accurate. Kinda like that declaration Corcoran drafted and had attorney Christina Bobb sign in June, pinky swearing that a diligent search had been conducted and there were no more classified documents to be found at Mar-a-Lago.
Meanwhile, other attorneys in Trumpland appear to have gotten the message that they need to run not walk away from whatever’s coming down the pike from Special Counsel Jack Smith, particularly in light of the Eleventh Circuit dropkicking Judge Aileen Cannon’s special master order. Both the Times and the Post, which eventually went back to its sources and confirmed the other two searches conspicuously left out of its earlier reporting, quote sources familiar with the thinking of former Trumpland lawyer Alex Cannon, who refused to sign on to a statement dictated by Trump in February attesting that all classified documents had been returned to the government. (Hey, Christina Bobb!)
The Times reports that Cannon was so worried about the presence of possibly classified documents that he “warned others in Mr. Trump’s circle not to go through the boxes themselves because it was unclear what was in them, and people might require security clearances.” (Hey, Jack Smith!)
In summary and in conclusion, there’s a reason Trump has trouble hiring competent counsel. And there’s a reason that so many of his former lawyers wind up on the pointy end of subpoenas and bar complaints. And that reason is Donald J. Trump.
Items with classified markings found at Trump storage unit in Florida [WaPo]
Classified Documents Found in Trump Search of Storage Site [NYT]
Trump team finds two documents with classified markings in a Florida storage unit [CNN]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.
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