Hero Or Goat? Meet Trump’s Chief Enabler In The Mar-a-Lago Case

INSIDE: Jack Smith ... Aileen Cannon ... Ta-Nehisi Coates
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC ... ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

We Have So Much To Thank Tom Fitton For

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton is widely credited with waltzing Donald Trump straight into criminal charges by advising him that he was legally entitled to keep the documents he had squirreled away at Mar-a-Lago.

Fitton, who heads up the conservative legal activist group but is not himself a lawyer, offered Trump misguided advice about the law, the precedent, and the issues involved in the Mar-a-Lago case.

The irony for those old enough to remember the Clinton years is that Fitton was mistakenly drawing on a case Judicial Watch was involved in back in the day when it was among the leading right-wing nemeses of Bill Clinton. Remember Larry Klayman?

The kicker to all this is that despite Fitton’s horrendous advice and Trump’s subsequent indictment, Trump still holds him close. Fitton had dinner with Trump and Nauta and their lawyers Monday night at a steakhouse at Trump’s Miami club.

Trump’s Lawyers Tried … They Really Did

It’s important not to reduce Trump’s mess of his own making to bad advice from Tom Fitton. It’s just an amusing addendum to the Trump train wreck.

The truth is that multiple Trump lawyers (reminder: Fitton is not a lawyer) advised him of his legal peril if he did not surrender the documents in his possession. Self-interested accounts from lawyers now caught in bad situations? Sure, but this is no-brainer legal advice. You don’t have to be a high-powered superlawyer to reach the conclusion that Trump was facing a world of hurt if he persisted on his defiant course.

Trump did what Trump wanted to do, as he always does. He ignored the advice he didn’t like, and proceeded as he saw fit.

And here we are.

The Biggest Question Of All

As TPM’s Josh Kovensky reports, the chances of getting the Mar-a-Lago case wrapped up before Election Day 2024 seems super remote. You can’t rule it out, but it’s really hard to see it happening.

Tack on any indictments of Trump and his inner circle in the Jan. 6 investigation, the looming Georgia indictments, and the ongoing hush money case in New York, and you have a million reasons why these cases are all going to be tied up in pre-trial wrangling for months or even years.

And yet …

Not to engage in magical thinking, but it’s feels like we might be underestimating Attorney General Merrick Garland and Special Counsel Jack Smith if we expect them to be undertaking these massive, historic, unprecedented prosecutions involving a former president without taking into account the election calendar in a strategic way.

They know their federal cases will go away if Trump is re-elected. I don’t know how they’ve accounted for it. Maybe they haven’t. But I doubt it.

The timing – the crunch between now and the 2024 election – is what has me perched on the edge of my seat, more so than the pre-trial fights themselves, or the difficulty of proving this or that charge, or the jury pool in Miami.

The window is tight and it’s closing. The stakes could not be higher.

Love Seeing ‘Radical’ In NYT Headline

NYT: The Radical Strategy Behind Trump’s Promise to ‘Go After’ Biden

Aileen Cannon Is A Real Wild Card

The judge in the Mar-a-Lago case tried very few cases as a prosecutor and has presided over a similarly small number of criminal trials since taking the bench in 2020.

All The President’s Men

One thing worth mentioning about the conditions of Donald Trump’s pre-trial release. The Justice Department was willing to let Trump continue to have contact with witnesses in the case without restriction, an unusual accommodation in a criminal case. The magistrate judge was displeased with that much leniency and imposed the condition that Trump could interact with witnesses but not talk to to them about the case.

Now, if you know Trump or anyone like him, setting a boundary of any kind is the equivalent of an invitation for them to cross that boundary. It’s like waving a red cape in front of a bull. The existence of the boundary is itself an irresistible attraction.

Add to that the extraordinary number of witnesses who are Trump lawyers, former lawyers, employees, former employees, aides, former aides, and assorted hangers-on, and you have a recipe for witness-tampering disaster.

What A Fine Paragraph

Premium use of the verb “toggle,” too:

Nauta — who spent Tuesday bizarrely toggling between the roles of co-defendant, equal under the law to Trump, and dutiful “body man,” subservient to the former president — has showed no signs that his loyalty to Trump is waning.

And, no, Nauta does not seem poised to cooperate with prosecutors.

Fani Willis Is Undeterred

The Atlanta DA’s office says the Mar-a-Lago indictments “will not have any impact on the Fulton County election investigation.”

Hate To See It

Smooth, Guys, Real Smooth

Marine Arrested In Abortion Clinic Firebombing

Two men, including an active-duty marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, have been arrested in last year’s firebombing of an abortion clinic in California.

Ya Don’t Say?

Between South Carolina And Me

Judd Legum: Why a South Carolina high school decided to censor Ta-Nehisi Coates

What’s Your Idiot-Detection System?

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