The newest addition to former President Donald Trump’s legal team, Chris Kise, has been sidelined from the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation less than a month after he was brought on to represent Trump in the matter, two sources familiar with the move tell CNN.
Kise is expected to remain on Trump’s legal team but is not leading the work related to the federal government’s investigation into how the former President handled 11,000 documents seized from his Florida home in August following a lengthy effort by the government to retrieve them. The reason for the shift in Kise’s role remains unclear and he may instead focus his efforts on the other investigations Trump is facing, which range from his business practices to the January 6 insurrection.
The move is notable given Kise, the former solicitor general for Florida, was brought on to the team after a weeks-long search and struggle to find someone willing to take on the case who was also experienced in Florida law. The legal strategy for fighting the Justice Department following the August seizure of over 100 documents marked as classified was also in disarray.
Kise’s hiring came with an unusual price tag of $3 million, paid for by Trump’s outside spending arm. The retainer fee, paid upfront, raised eyebrows among other lawyers on Trump’s team, given the former President has a developed a reputation for not paying his legal fees.
His sidelining will likely be read as another setback for Trump as he faces multiple investigations.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said: “Chris Kise’s role as an important member of President Trump’s legal team remains unchanged, and any suggestion otherwise is untrue.”
Kise did not respond to a request for comment.
Kise had been viewed among Trump contacts as a serious white-collar attorney and trial lawyer, with Florida court chops. Before he came aboard, other lawyers on Trump’s team were perceived in legal circles to have made serious missteps in the investigation, such as not fully recognizing the legal risk of the documents investigation before the search of Mar-a-Lago, telling investigators all classified records had been turned over, missing opportunities to argue for executive privilege and having an appeals court deliver a drubbing against Trump’s bid to block classified documents in the investigation.
So far, Kise doesn’t appear to be deeply involved Trump’s other most serious criminal investigative risk – the Justice Department’s January 6 investigation. Kise was not present in a DC federal courthouse last week alongside three other Trump attorneys who are arguing for confidentiality around Trump’s conversations at the end of his presidency. They are attempting to block a federal grand jury from gathering information from an expanding circle of close Trump aides about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Kise left his large law firm that he had been with for more than a decade, Foley & Lardner, to take the job as a solo practitioner. He previously worked for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ transition team and has won four cases before the Supreme Court.