Reports Say Donald Trump Ignored His Lawyers Despite Indictment Warning – A new report suggests that former President Donald Trump may have been warned, on multiple occasions, that he was on the verge of a federal indictment over his possession of allegedly classified documents – and that he chose to ignore his lawyers anyway.
Sources say that Trump also took advice from other lawyers, some of whom he had retained and some who were supporters of his former administration, who disagreed with his legal team.
According to a June 28 report from the Rolling Stone, which cites two sources familiar with the situation, several lawyers told the former president that he may be entitled to access documents taken from his Mar-a-Lago residence under a section of the Presidential Records Act.
The claims ring true, too, as the former president has repeatedly insisted on his Truth Social platform that he was entitled to the records under the Presidential Records Act.
The act, which was passed after the Watergate scandal, is designed to limit access that presidents have to official documents once they leave office. Nonetheless, one section of the law states that the documents may be “available to such former President or the former President’s designated representative.”
The theory that the Presidential Records Act supports Trump’s claim has been backed by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal organization that has reportedly offered advice to the former president. In an opinion piece by Michael Bekesha, a senior attorney from the group, the classified documents held by Trump in his Florida home were not “agency records,” as outlined in the Presidential Records Act, meaning that the former president was entitled to keep them.
“Not every record created by a federal agency is an ‘agency record,’” Bekesha writes in the Wall Street Journal.
“As then-Judge Merrick Garland and two of his colleagues on the D.C. Circuit concluded in 2013 (in another Judicial Watch case, concerning White House visitor logs maintained by the Secret Service), records created by an agency for the president and intended to be controlled by the president aren’t agency records. Why not? Separation of powers. As Judge Garland explained, if records requested and intended to be controlled by the president were agency records, ‘a potentially serious congressional intrusion into the conduct of the President’s daily operations’ would exist.”
Bekesha went on to suggest that the indictment implies that Trump received the records when he was still in the White House, and that he intended to control them because he stored them in boxes. However, nobody outside of the government knows whether the documents were created for Trump. The indictment also does not accuse Trump of deliberately obtaining the documents from agencies. If Bekesha is right – and if the court agrees – it means that Trump’s decision to maintain possession of the records was legal.
Rolling Stone’s reporting, and specifically its accusation that Trump ignored his lawyers, is not exactly remarkable. No one lawyer has all the answers, and the former president may have simply chosen to accept what he believed is the best advice. Until the matter reaches the courts, however, it’s hard to know how this one will play out.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.