Donald Trump

Did Trump Admit Obstruction on Fox?

Plus: Americans may be getting more socially conservative, poverty policy beyond welfare, and more...


Trump tells Fox News that he couldn't give back subpoenaed documents because his golf shirts were mixed in. Lawyers rightfully stress that if you find yourself facing criminal charges, it's a bad idea to talk to anyone—especially the cops or the press—without your counsel present. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump isn't taking that advice. On Monday, the former president sat down with Fox News' Bret Baier to give a televised interview about the federal criminal case against him.

"The first rule of Federal Indictment Club is: you don't talk about your case," as Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air. "And the second rule of Federal Indictment Club is: you don't talk about your case, period. You hire a good lawyer or two and let them talk about your case in public. The surest way to help the prosecution is to go on television and make a damaging admission about the key element of a charge."

Trump has demonstrated again and again that he thinks he can talk his way out of anything—and, so far, that strategy hasn't worked out so badly for him. But federal criminal charges are different than the previous political quagmires and public relations conundrums. Prosecutors will be sure to pounce on any public statements from Trump about why he kept boxes of sensitive documents after he left the White House, stored them at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, and stalled on giving them back.

And during yesterday's interview with Baier, Trump handed prosecutors some doozies.

Trump is charged, among other things, with knowingly engaging in misleading conduct to "conceal a record, document, and other object from an official proceeding." The government alleges that Trump not only took classified papers and delayed returning them when subpoenaed but lied to his lawyer—and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as well—about which records he still had in his possession. Meanwhile, Trump allegedly instructed co-defendant Walt Nauta to hide some of the documents.

During yesterday's interview, Trump told Baier that authorities asked him to return the documents he had kept but he had kept them because he wanted time to go through them:

BAIER: They said, 'could you give us the documents back?' And then they said they went to DOJ to subpoena you to get them back.

TRUMP: Which they've never done before.

BAIER: Right.

TRUMP: And in all fairness—

BAIER: Why not just hand them over then?

TRUMP: 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.

BAIER: Yeah.

TRUMP: I've been very, very busy.

BAIER: But according to the indictment, you then tell this aide to move to other locations after telling your lawyers to say you'd fully complied with the subpoena, when you hadn't.

TRUMP: But 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.

The conversation is a bit jumbled, but at the very least Trump doesn't object to Baier's characterization that he had the boxes of documents moved after saying he had fully complied with the subpoenas. And the conversation could be viewed as Trump admitting to doing exactly that, offering as justification that he wanted more time to sort through them and get out his golf shirts and shoes.

Trump's lawyers may argue that his last statement was simply him continuing his earlier thought, not agreeing with Baier that he had ordered an aide to move the boxes. Nonetheless, the sequence of statements is ambiguous enough that it doesn't do Trump any favors while giving the prosecution good fodder to argue that Trump openly admitted to obstruction.

"Trump just made it almost impossible for a jury to believe any denial on these allegations, and his justification here would be damning in court," writes Morrissey:

By talking publicly, Trump likely ruined a potential defense strategy for his attorneys, and now they will have to work around Trump's public statement on national TV when this case comes to trial.

Bear in mind too that criminal defendants don't have to testify in court. Trump could have refused to expose himself to cross-examination at trial and make Smith and his team prove obstruction on their own beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, Trump put himself on national TV and let Bret Baier cross-examine him, in a way that prosecutors can use whether Trump agrees to testify or not. And Trump botched the exchange and ended up making a potentially fatal admission, not because of a skilled attorney, but because a journalist simply read the elements of the indictment to him.

On Twitter, lawyer Jonathan Turley lays out other potential ways that Trump made his defense more difficult during yesterday's interview.

Trump and some of his supporters keep insisting that this is a political witch hunt. But even Trump's former attorney general, Bill Barr, sees this situation this time as one "entirely of [Trump's] own making," as Barr wrote in a piece for The Free Press yesterday.

Barr notes that "the government had every right—indeed, it had no choice—but to retrieve" the sensitive documents that Trump took with him from the White House. "Trump has been the victim of witch hunts by obsessive enemies willing to do anything to bring him down," Barr suggests. But this is not one of those situations:

For the sake of the country, our party, and a basic respect for the truth, it is time that Republicans come to grips with the hard truths about President Trump's conduct and its implications. Chief among them: Trump's indictment is not the result of unfair government persecution. This is a situation entirely of his own making. The effort to present Trump as a victim in the Mar-a-Lago document affair is cynical political propaganda.

Barr goes on to note that this is not just about Trump taking the documents in question but refusing to give them back and trying to conceal that he hadn't:

Trump's apologists have conjured up bizarre arguments that the Presidential Records Act, a statute meant to prohibit former presidents from removing official documents from the White House, should be interpreted as giving Trump carte blanche to remove whatever he wants, even if it is unquestionably an official document.

These justifications are not only farcical, they are beside the point. They ignore the central reason the former president was indicted: his calculated and deceitful obstruction of a grand jury subpoena….

All the razzle-dazzle about Trump's supposed rights under the Presidential Records Act is a sideshow. At its core, this is an obstruction case. Trump would not have been indicted just for taking the documents in the first place. Nor would he have been indicted even if he delayed returning them for a period while arguing about it.

What got Trump criminally charged was his deceit and obstruction in responding to the grand jury subpoena served in May 2022 after he had stymied the government for a year.

That subpoena sought all documents in Trump's possession that were marked as classified. If Trump truly thought he had a solid basis for keeping those documents, there were easy and obvious ways he could have lawfully raised those arguments at the time. Among other things, he could have taken legal action to quash the subpoena or have a court declare his right to keep them.

He did not do any of that.

Instead, the indictment alleges, he led the government to believe he was complying with the subpoena, telling the DOJ he was an "open book." At the same time, he told his own lawyer it would be "better" to tell the DOJ there were no such documents and suggested his lawyer pluck out any "really bad" ones before giving anything to the government. Why would Trump say these things to his lawyer if he really thought he had a good legal basis for keeping all the documents?

But the pivotal fact—and what ultimately led the DOJ to charge Trump—was the department's conclusion that Trump personally engaged in an outrageous course of deception to obstruct the grand jury's inquiry. The indictment alleges in great detail that (1) Trump led his lawyer to believe that he would be allowed to conduct a complete search of all the boxes that could contain the relevant documents; (2) Trump then arranged, without the lawyer's knowledge, for a large number of the relevant boxes to be removed from the room to be searched, thus preventing a complete search; and (3) Trump then caused his attorney to file a false statement with the court saying he conducted a complete search.

These are the allegations Trump was asked about by Baier and didn't strenuously deny. The interview only furthers Barr's assertion that Trump's troubles here are of his own making.

In related news: A federal judge has ordered Trump and his legal team not to publicly release any evidence in the case against him. "The Discovery materials, along with any information derived therefrom, shall not be disclosed to the public or the news media, or disseminated on any news or social media platform, without prior notice to and consent of the United States or approval of the Court," the court order states.


Are Americans getting more socially conservative? For years, the percentage of Americans who say same-sex relationships are morally acceptable has been trending upward. But in a new Gallup poll, "significantly fewer say same-sex relations are morally acceptable," notes Gallup. Just 64 percent of poll respondents this year said "gay or lesbian relations" are morally acceptable, down from 71 percent in 2022.

The Gallup poll finds views of moral acceptability also slipping for birth control (from 92 to 88 percent), divorce (from 81 to 78 percent), sex between an unmarried man and woman (from 76 to 72 percent), sex between teenagers (from 46 percent to 43 percent), and pornography (from 41 to 39 percent), although these drops are all within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Americans polled this year have grown more accepting of the death penalty, with 60 percent now saying it's morally acceptable, compared to 55 percent last year. The percent of people who said having an extramarital affair is morally acceptable has also increased, from 9 to 12 percent.


How banking, housing, criminal justice, and labor policies stymie efforts to alleviate poverty. A new study from the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this magazine) makes a case for "refocusing U.S. welfare policy on economic opportunity." Study author Max Gulker notes that work requirements for welfare recipients "may have led to some increased participation in the labor force and poverty reduction during the economic growth of the 1990s, the impacts were highly limited in reach, magnitude, and opportunities for robust upward mobility." More:

Work requirements likely contributed to higher employment among single mothers with young children, which has persisted until today, but with small and transitory reductions in poverty. Furthermore, cost savings from the reduction in welfare rolls were offset by the need for greater bureaucracy to enforce work requirements and ultimately give far fewer people aid.

Yet today, Republicans continue to push work requirements as a solution to reigning in welfare spending. Gulker suggests instead that we broaden our focus:

Welfare does not operate in a policy vacuum, and several other government policies in the mid-to-late 20th century are in part to blame for many poor Americans' continued dependence on government aid. This study examines the impact of policies on banking, housing, criminal justice, and labor market regulation that in various ways have reduced or undermined opportunities for upward mobility available to poor Americans.

These include but are not limited to policies explicitly targeting predominantly black urban neighborhoods. New Deal-era "redlining" practices by authorities directly diverted financial capital from these neighborhoods, depriving them of home loans and business investments with negative impacts many believe persist until today. Less business activity in these neighborhoods reduces job opportunities close to people both in proximity and within the dense network of relationships often critical for economically prosperous neighborhoods.

Further damage came from the consequences of bad urban planning and public housing policy in the mid-20th century, when often the same neighborhoods set back by redlining were designated as "slums," demolished, and replaced with high-rise public housing projects along with other public works, often of no direct benefit to the people and businesses displaced. By uprooting people and often closing neighborhood businesses, further damage was done to the social capital essential to foster urban economic mobility.

Other detrimental policies have included the war on drugs and increased labor regulation.

"These policies' importance and detrimental impact are often forgotten when speaking abstractly about poor people, cultures of dependency, and the virtues of work," writes Gulker. "Estimating the size of their impact in poor communities, relative to that of welfare benefits and requirements placed upon them, is all but impossible. But attempts to account for past successes and failures of the modern U.S. welfare system, particularly as it relates to work, that do not consider the question against this wider policy background are fundamentally incomplete."

More here.


• The U.S. Coast Guard says a small submersible vessel carrying five people has been missing since Sunday.

• New research finds major progress in treating breast cancer: "Crude five year breast cancer mortality risk was 14.4%…for women with a diagnosis made during 1993-99 and 4.9%…for women with a diagnosis made during 2010-15."

• "Institutional investors that buy and rent out single-family homes are increasingly scapegoated for driving up prices, gentrifying neighborhoods, and depriving working and middle-class Americans of the opportunity for homeownership," notes Reason's Christian Britschgi. But "a new study suggests this handwringing is much ado about nothing."

• In 2022, "the FBI opened nearly 10 times as many investigations into cases of abortion-related domestic terrorism as it had in 2021," reports The Intercept, citing a new FBI report. The report doesn't say whether the investigations concerned pro-abortion or anti-abortion incidents.