Former President Donald Trump has hired Chris Kise, Florida’s former solicitor general, to represent him in the criminal investigation related to the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago resort in early August.
Kise’s hiring comes at a critical juncture for the former president, whose legal team has faced criticism for its handling of the case in the Southern District of Florida, including its struggle to handle basic administrative tasks and make timely requests of the court. Trump’s team has tried to argue that the former president has the ability and right to declassify documents, that as a former president he is not bound to the same laws regarding the handling of classified materials, and some of the materials are covered by executive or attorney-client privilege. Trump has also sought to frame the dispute as a bookkeeping matter over presidential records, requiring negotiation with the National Archives, not criminal proceedings.
The Archives spent months attempting to recover the highly classified materials housed at Mar-a-Lago and grew alarmed when Trump resisted permitting a Justice Department review of the files Trump had agreed to return earlier in the year, leading the agencies to suspect there were additional documents Trump had not returned.
Kise joins Evan Corcoran and Jim Trusty in advising Trump on the Florida probe, one of several the former president faces across multiple venues. His hiring, which was confirmed by three people familiar with Trump’s legal team, was first reported by NBC News.
For Kise’s services, Trump will have to pay on his own. A person familiar with the matter confirmed that the Republican National Committee is not paying for Trump’s legal fees related to the FBI’s investigation and retrieval of documents at Mar-a-Lago. That’s a departure of sorts from the past. The RNC has, for example, paid for Trump’s legal bills involving New York Attorney General Tish James’ investigation into the former president’s private businesses. The committee would stop paying Trump’s legal fees should he formally declare his candidacy for president in the 2024 election — a step he has hinted at but has yet to take.
Kise has extensive experience with major trials and appeals and has successfully argued four Supreme Court cases. Kise, described as a “fixture in Florida Republican politics,” comes from the firm Foley and Lardner. As of Tuesday morning, Kise was no longer listed on the firm’s website.
In addition to previously serving as Floria’s top litigator, Kise was counsel to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and general counsel to the gubernatorial transition teams of former Florida Gov. Rick Scott and current Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Brian Ballard, a top lobbyist and fundraiser for Trump and DeSantis, said Kise was “one of the finest lawyers I’ve ever worked with — I think President Trump got a really good lawyer and really good counselor and a fighter.”
Kise is expected to appear in court to represent Trump on Thursday to discuss the former president’s request for a special master to review documents retrieved by the FBI during its search of Mar-a-Lago.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.