Trump’s freewheeling, stream-of-conscious speaking style attracts legal attention amid investigations

Trump’s freewheeling, stream-of-conscious speaking style attracts legal attention amid investigations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump is talking about his legal woes in a way that would make most defense attorneys cringe.

A recent sample: In a March interview on Fox News, the former president said he had “the right to take” classified documents with him to his Florida compound and would not say he didn’t. not consulted the files since leaving office. During a town hall on CNN this month, Trump said he told an election official in Georgia “you owe me” votes in the 2020 election.

At the same town hall on May 10, he insulted a female writer as a ‘wacky job’ – just a day after that same woman, E. Jean Carroll, won a $5million judgment against him in a civil lawsuit . for defamation and sexual assault. Monday, Carroll amended a lawsuit to hold him responsible for the words of the town hall.

Trump, the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has never been shy about speaking his mind or jousting with his antagonists. The problem, legal experts say, is that the former president is under intense scrutiny from state and federal prosecutors, and those same prosecutors can use the former president’s statements against him to various ways.

“Anything a defendant says, whether it’s confessions, denials, observations, nonsensical gibberish, or just plain wacky, is nothing but pure gold for prosecutors. “said Julieanne Himelstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Washington.

Trump found himself under investigation by prosecutors stretching from New York to Georgia.

He was charged in March by a Manhattan grand jury on charges related to silent payments made on his behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign. On Tuesday, a New York judge set the trial to start on March 25, in the middle of the primary contests. Trump, appearing via video link, threw up his hands in frustration at the time of the trial and glared at the camera.

A local Georgia prosecutor is investigating whether the former president and his allies broke the law by seeking to overturn his 2020 election loss. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis suggested last week that the indictments could come in August. Meanwhile, a Justice Department special counsel is investigating the former president’s role in the January 6, 2021, uprising and the discovery of classified documents at Mar-a-Largo, Trump’s residence and resort. in Florida.

In recent media appearances and at rallies, Trump has made comments that could be seen as incriminating or, at the very least, complicate his legal team’s ability to push back the charges. He appeared to be in particular trouble during a May 10 town hall hosted by CNN.

The former president spent nearly an hour discussing a range of issues while commenting on the investigations in a way that flies in the face of generally accepted legal advice. Not only did he re-insult Carroll and provide the Fulton County prosecutor with more fodder for his investigation, but he also gave the Justice Department an opening by claiming he didn’t remember if he showed any classified documents to anyone.

Joyce Vance, a law professor who served as a US attorney in Alabama under President Barack Obama, said on Twitter, “There were prosecutors and agents taking notes tonight.

Trump also suggested he was personally involved in the taking of files at Mar-a-Lago – “I was there and I took what I took and it’s declassified,” he said. he declares. That statement contradicts arguments made by his own lawyers, who just last month suggested in a letter to Congress that the document’s suppression was the “result of haphazard holding and wrapping.” records” rather than an intentional decision by Trump.

The statements come as the investigation into the documents shows signs of ending and as Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith focuses on the issue of potential obstruction, digging deeper into Trump’s failure and its representatives to return the classified files in its possession despite having issued a subpoena to do so.

Trump’s penchant for public statements was on full display during the latest special counsel investigation he faced. He told an interviewer in 2017 that he had “that Russia thing” in mind when he fired former FBI Director James Comey. His lawyers sought to explain that statement by noting that he also said he knew removing Comey would prolong, rather than shorten, the Russia investigation.

Lawyers have said prosecutors may not be able to use some of Trump’s comments if they are irrelevant to the charges or may be deemed prejudicial by a judge.

They also may not need to play them for jurors because other evidence is much stronger. While Trump said on CNN he told Brad Raffensperger “you owe me” votes, he was also recorded asking the Georgia election official to “find” more votes for him.. The call came in January 2021 as Trump was desperately trying to overturn Georgia’s election result.

“It’s no more inculpatory than the fact that we already have a recorded phone call,” said Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis. “It could have been more damning if we hadn’t had the actual recording of the phone call.”

Former prosecutors and defense attorneys say a client’s public comments can hamper how they present their case to a jury. This can reveal their strategy and lock them into certain lines of attack in the prosecution case. Such comments might also prompt them to do whatever they can to prevent their client from appearing on the witness stand.

For example, they said, Trump may have admitted to taking classified documents from the White House, but his lawyers wrote, “The purpose of this letter is not to say whether these documents are actually classified or have been declassified.

If Trump were ever to testify, prosecutors could use such conflicting statements to poke holes in his story, making it harder for his defense team to tell the jury a coherent story.

“It may well be that what Trump is doing is preventing him from testifying because he would be so damaged if he testified,” said Richard Klein, a criminal law professor at Touro University in New York.

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