Report: Trump Ignored Lawyers Who Sought 'Exit Ramps'

But he was all ears when he was told he should fight federal investigation, insiders say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2023 12:29 PM CDT
Report: Trump Rejected 'Exit Ramps' in Documents Case
This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records on Dec. 7, 2021, in a storage room at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.   (Justice Department via AP)

The road to Donald Trump's federal indictment was littered with rejected advice from lawyers and aides, the Washington Post reports, citing multiple Trump aides and other insiders. The sources say the former president stubbornly turned down numerous chances to avoid criminal charges, starting when the National Archives first asked for documents to be returned in February 2021. "He’s incapable of admitting wrongdoing. 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,'" says former White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Kelly and others say Trump is not inclined to grant requests from agencies—or people—he dislikes, and he dug in his heels as the FBI and National Archives kept pushing for the return of classified documents. The Post's sources say that one "exit ramp" was a possibility after former Florida solicitor general Chris Kise joined Trump's legal team last fall. Kise, who was paid $3 million up front, wanted to quietly negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department in which Trump would avoid criminal charges if all the documents were returned. But Trump rejected Kise's attempt to "turn the temperature" down after he listened to other lawyers who urged him to fight the investigation, the sources say.

Insiders say one person who Trump did listen to was Tom Fitton, head of the conservative group Judicial Watch. They said Fitton persuaded Trump that he was legally allowed to keep the documents and should take on the Justice Department. Fitton tells the Post that he had dinner with Trump on Monday—the day before his arraignment in Miami—and the former president is "serious and ready to fight under the law." The New York Times reports that some of the lawyers Trump hired to defend him in the documents investigation have been questioned by federal investigators and could appear as witnesses when the case goes to trial. (The notes of former Trump attorney Evan Corcoran were particularly helpful to prosecutors.)

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