Donald Trump thought he crushed his Fox News interview. The rest of the world thinks he bumbled it miserably.
In the hours after his interview with Brett Baier aired on Monday, Trump privately boasted about how well he thought he performed. As he asked others if they had caught the interview and what they thought of it, the former president and 2024 GOP frontrunner said the tension and parrying with Baier made him look tough, creating buzzy, attention-grabbing television, two sources with knowledge of the situation tell Rolling Stone.
During the televised sit-down, Trump arguably confessed to intentionally withholding classified government documents in his post-presidency; this Fox appearance comes the week after his arrest and arraignment in the federal investigation into his hoarding of highly classified material and possible obstruction.
Where Trump saw buzz, people hoping to keep him out of legal jeopardy saw trouble. Several of the ex-president’s current and former legal advisers watched on with exasperated sighs, and in some cases terror, according to three people familiar with the matter.
One lawyer working in Trump’s orbit messaged Rolling Stone shortly after the interview first aired, predicting the Fox clip would be brought up by prosecutors at trial.
“It was a disaster, if you are his lawyer,” says Ty Cobb, a former top Trump White House lawyer during a different special counsel probe. “And they’ll have more of those, because they won’t be able to keep him quiet…Trump gave the government an enormous gift [in that Fox interview], and they will be able to use what he said to assist them in proving the former president’s intent as to virtually all the charges in the Mar-a-Lago indictment.”
During the Baier interview, the Fox host asked the now twice-indicted former president, “Why not just hand them over then?” Trump responded, “Because I had boxes — I want to go through the boxes and get all my personal things out. I don’t want to hand that over to NARA yet. And I was very busy, as you’ve sort of seen…I’ve been very, very busy…[So] before I send boxes over, I have to take all of my things out. These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things — golf shirts, clothing, pants, shoes. There were many things.”
As many experienced, onlooking lawyers — including some who have directly advised Trump — have pointed out, this is not an adequate legal defense in a criminal trial.
However, many of the former president’s personal attorneys and senior aides have long since resigned themselves to the fact that Trump is generally not going to heed their warnings about keeping his mouth shut in public. This is true, even over the course of a high-stakes special counsel and Espionage Act investigation, and even when legal experts argue that Trump is further incriminating himself, willingly.
“Would [his lawyers] prefer him not to do it? Sure. But good luck with that,” says one person close to Trump.
Even following his latest indictment, the former president does not clear his media appearances with his attorneys, according to a source familiar with the matter and another person briefed on it, leaving Trump to wage his communications war in the court of public opinion — even if it means handing federal prosecutors “an enormous gift.”
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
It’s unclear if, in the day since Trump’s interview aired, the public reaction has shaken his self-confidence, as the criticisms have been loud and bipartisan. Democratic politicians and commentators declared Trump had copped to a crime on cable TV. Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential campaign trashed Trump over the interview. By Tuesday morning, conservative Fox News hosts were all but warning Trump to zip it. And legal experts across the political spectrum were, of course, calculating the damage Trump had, with the stroke of one interview, done to his own defense.
“It’s very bad in the abstract,” says Ken White, a criminal defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor. “But, as applied to Trump, it’s kind of bouncing the rubble. In other words, this level of admission may already be priced in. It may not be new. Sooner or later his embarrassing admissions are cumulative. But this one is probably the worst of the admissions so far, because it’s in the specific context of these specific charges against him.”
White adds, “For anyone else, endgame. For Trump, Monday. Strengthen the prosecution’s case? Yes. Strengthen it to the same degree it would for a normal person? No way.”
As the second part of the interview began airing on Tuesday night, Trump posted on Truth Social about the night before. “Will be interviewed, Part 2, by Bret Baier, tonight at 6:00 on FoxNews. Great reviews from part 1, last night. Enjoy!”
Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/donald-trump-fox-news-interview-indictment-confession-great-job-1234775228/