Donald Trump could have avoided being indicted in the classified documents case, but he didn’t want to listen to his own lawyers.
Trump pleaded not guilty on Wednesday for mishandling classified documents and making false statements to federal authorities. He faces 37 criminal charges, which could get him 20 years in prison. But a new report from The Washington Post reveals that it didn’t have to be this way. In fact, the former president repeatedly rejected options that would have prevented the indictment.
Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise, had wanted to try to negotiate with the Justice Department, the Post reported. He had suggested returning all the documents in exchange for the department agreeing not to charge Trump.
But Kise never approached federal prosecutors because Trump wasn’t interested. Instead of listening to his own legal team and advisers, Trump only wanted to get advice from Tom Fitton, the head of the conservative group Judicial Watch. Fitton and a few other people incorrectly told Trump, and even tried to convince his legal team, that he could keep the classified material.
The FBI subsequently raided Mar-a-Lago and found hundreds of sensitive documents stashed in various rooms throughout the resort. Trump has been charged with keeping national defense information without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. The investigation also revealed that Trump lied to his lawyers about how many documents he still had and may even have tried to hide boxes of documents from them. Lawyers were also prevented from searching certain rooms.
Fitton told the Post that Trump was “in a good mood” and “ready to fight.” Fitton also blamed Trump’s legal team for not fighting the federal subpoenas hard enough.
But former White House chief of staff John Kelly said it’s no surprise that Trump steamrolled his legal team. “He’s incapable of admitting wrongdoing,” Kelly told the Post. “He wanted to keep it, and he says, ‘You’re not going to tell me what to do. I’m the smartest guy in the room.’”
Kelly had previously told the Post that Trump was “scared shitless” of actually being held accountable for a change.
It is growing ever more clear that the only person Trump can blame for his current situation is himself.