Former President Donald Trump claimed in an interview on Fox News that he was too busy to sift through government records to return classified materials before he was indicted by the Justice Department earlier this month.
Trump, who pleaded not guilty last week to illegally retaining national security information and obstructing government efforts to retrieve it, told anchor Bret Baier that he was too busy to separate the documents sought by the National Archives from his personal items they were stored with in the dozens of boxes he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.
“Because I had boxes, I wanted to go through the boxes and get all of my personal things out,” Trump said. “I don’t want to hand that over to NARA yet. And I was very busy, as you’ve sort of seen.”
Baier noted that the indictment alleges that he told his aide Walt Nauta to move the boxes “to other locations after telling your lawyers to say you’d fully complied with the subpoena when you hadn’t.”
“Before I send boxes over, I have to take all of my things out,” Trump replied. “These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things.”
Baier also pressed Trump on an alleged recording cited in the indictment in which Trump discusses a plan for a potential attack on Iran but says he cannot show it to others because it is not declassified.
“There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else, talking about Iran and other things. And it may have been held up or it may not, but that was not a document,” Trump told Baier, “These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things; golf shirts, pants, shoes, all sorts of things.”
“Iran war plans?” Baier asked.
“Not that I know of,” Trump said.
Baier throughout the interview repeatedly challenged Trump, including his false claim that he “won in 2020 by a lot.”
“You lost the 2020 election,” Baier pushed back.
Trump went on to criticize Fox, noting that a “lot less” people are watching the network.
“I’m no great fan of Fox,” Trump said.
“You’re sitting here,” Baier fired back.
During another portion of the interview, Baier read off a list of critical comments from numerous former Trump Cabinet and administration officials.
“Why did you hire all of them in the first place?” Baier asked.
“Because I hired ten to one that were fantastic,” Trump responded, “For every person you named, I can name 20 people that loved the administration.”
Legal experts questioned Trump’s decision to do a TV interview while facing a 37-count indictment and suggested that he may have given special counsel Jack Smith even more evidence to use against him.
“The defendant seems utterly incapable of exercising his constitutional right to remain silent,” tweeted conservative attorney and frequent Trump critic George Conway.
“Keep confessing,” wrote national security attorney Bradley Moss. “No criminal defense attorney worth their salt would ever advise their indicted client to do a media tour. That helps explain the problems Mr. Trump has had retaining qualified counsel,” he added.
Even George Washington University Law Prof. Jonathan Turley, who previously defended Trump amid his legal woes, warned that “statements of this kind are generally admissible at trial.”
“This is one more inculpatory statement,” former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman told MSNBC. “Every time he opens his mouth, it gets worse.”
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“Mr. Trump, good luck with that defense,” former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal told MSNBC.
“If it were just newspaper articles, why in the world are you saying on the tape that it’s classified? It’s totally incoherent,” he said. “And the other parts of the tape… really is an admission of guilt. Like, if you just think about the Espionage Act, what is the prosecution need to show? They needed to show the defendant had unauthorized possession of national defense documents, that he willfully retained the document, and failed to give the documents to an officer of the U.S. Those are the elements. So, the Trump admission goes to all of that.”
Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, warned that it would be a “colossal blunder” by Trump to “continue down this road.”
“What he had to say is preposterous,” Weissmann said. “He is saying that he didn’t have enough time to take out personal things. So first, he has already said that everything is his — everything is personal. There’s no triage that needs to be done, because according to his prior defense, everything is personal, because they are quote, ‘mine.’ It’s an inconsistency, something that Jack Smith can easily point out. Second, people should understand when you get subpoenaed, if you don’t have time to comply, if the deadline is not there, it’s not like you don’t have the ability to have your lawyer call up and say, you know what? I need more time or I can partially comply, but I need more time. If that was true, what you don’t do is send something to the Department of Justice that says, ‘I fully complied.’ Now he is saying, in spite of the fact that he said I fully complied, he’s now saying, no, no, no, I just needed to take out my golf shirts.”
“This is the kind of thing that Jack Smith has to be salivating over,” he added.
about the Trump indictment