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In classified docs case, did Trump publicly admit a bit too much?

At his town hall event this week, Donald Trump contradicted his own lawyers' line about the classified documents scandal. That wasn't smart.


Facing a criminal investigation over alleged election interference in Georgia, Donald Trump made comments at his town hall event this week that might’ve helped prosecutors. Facing a criminal investigation over the Jan. 6 attack, the former president admitted at the same event that he tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to help him overturn the 2020 election results. He also seemed to invite new civil litigation from E. Jean Carroll.

But it was the Republican’s comments about his classified documents scandal that continue to reverberate in the wake of the ridiculous broadcast.

At one point during the event, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Trump whether he ever showed the classified documents he took to anyone. “Not really,” he replied. Asked what that meant, the former president added, “Not that I can think of.”

It was hard not to imagine his defense attorneys smacking their foreheads. As a New York Times report put it, this was “the area in which he walked himself into the biggest problems.” A separate Times report added overnight:

Former President Donald J. Trump admitted more directly than before on Wednesday that he knowingly removed government records from the White House and claimed that he was allowed to take anything he wanted with him as personal records, appearing to misstate the law and undercut some assertions by his own lawyers.

A related NBC News report noted that Trump’s lawyers told Congress last month that the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago compound got there by accident. And yet, there was Trump during the CNN program, declaring, “I took the documents; I’m allowed to,” before lying about his predecessors having done the same thing.

He went on to insist he had an “absolute” right to take the materials from the White House based on an interpretation of the Presidential Records Act that doesn’t really make any sense. The Times added:

At another point, Mr. Trump described for Ms. Collins how he had apparently taken materials from the White House not only on purpose, but in plain view of the public. “When we left Washington, we had the boxes lined up on the sidewalk outside for everybody,” he said. “People are taking pictures of them. Everybody knew we were taking those boxes.”

This, too, was at odds with his own lawyers’ recent explanation that the records showed up at Trump’s glorified country club because of the chaotic and haphazard circumstances surrounding his departure from the White House.

It was soon after when viewers were treated to the “not really” answer in response to a question about to whom he might’ve shown the classified documents he took.

John Fishwick, a former U.S. attorney, told NBC News, “Trump’s comments hurt him, and what he said is significant. ... Not only do they contradict his legal position, he admits to possession and knowledge of classified documents that he is taking from the White House. [Special counsel] Jack Smith will make good use of last night’s town hall and it will help him button up his case.”

Just to reiterate a point from yesterday, when you’re the subject of multiple ongoing criminal investigations, defense attorneys tend to agree that it’s best not to talk a whole lot about your alleged misdeeds. If you’re going to do it anyway, it’s also best to exercise great caution and message discipline, so as to avoid making things easier for those preparing to indict you.

On Wednesday night, the former president, unable to help himself, not only talked about his alleged crimes, he also exercised little caution and was completely undisciplined.

If Trump is indicted in the Mar-a-Lago case, it’ll be worth reviewing the charging materials and looking for relevant details from the town hall transcript.