There’s an episode of the Twilight Zone based on the short story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W.W. Jacobs. The original story involves a couple that receives a magical monkey’s paw which will grant them three wishes. But they soon discover that each wish comes at a steep price (their wish for money to pay off their mortgage, for example, comes from an insurance payout after their son is killed in an accident). The moral of the story is, “Be careful what you wish for” – a lesson that Donald Trump would have been wise to heed before he began his quest to get a Special Master. His wish was granted, but he may have inadvertently helped the government build the case against him as a result.
It’s worth pausing for a moment to recognize that at every step of the Mar-a-Lago scandal, Trump has been a poster child for Bad Idea Jeans. There is, of course, the initial poorly considered decision to haul thousands of government records, including hundreds of highly-classified documents, from the White House to his private resort. Then there was the choice not to return everything when the National Archives asked for them back. Then there was the lie Trump told the Justice Department, namely that he had returned all of the marked classified documents in response to a judicial subpoena, when in fact there were documents still stuffed in his desk drawer. Then there was Trump’s announcement on social media that the FBI had executed a search warrant at his home – which then gave DOJ a justification to release portions of the search warrant, revealing that he was under investigation for potential violations of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice. And then there was his failure to assert any arguments in response to the motion by members of the press to release the affidavit underlying the search warrant, which resulted in damning evidence of both the nature of the documents he took and his efforts to conceal them being made public.
In fact, there’s at least some evidence that Trump’s bizarre lawsuit seeking the appointment of a Special Master wasn’t really based on a well-planned legal strategy, but a knee-jerk response to a rebuke of one of Trump’s (former) lawyers, Christina Bobb, on Laura Ingraham’s show. On her August 21st show, Ingraham pressed Bobb on why she had not made any arguments on Trump’s behalf in response to the motion to unseal the search warrant affidavit, pointing out that she may have forfeited certain claims as a result. The unprecedented lawsuit – which circumvented the authority of the court overseeing the criminal case – was filed the very next day with Judge Aileen Cannon.