Trump adds ex-Florida solicitor general to Mar-a-Lago legal team - source

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FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando

By Steve Holland and Jacqueline Thomsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Republican former President Donald Trump has added former Florida Solicitor General Chris Kise to his legal team in the case involving classified documents he stored at his Mar-a-Lago club, a source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed a report by NBC News that Kise had been hired. Trump representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

A spokesperson at Kise's law firm confirmed Kise had left but did not say where he was going. "Foley & Lardner LLP can confirm that Christopher M. Kise, formerly a partner in our Tallahassee office, has withdrawn from the firm."

Kise will join a legal team that already includes Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor who recently defended former Trump aide Steve Bannon in his contempt of Congress trial, and former prosecutor James Trusty.

Bannon was convicted on two counts for defying a congressional subpoena to appear before the U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating the Jan. 6., 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Another lawyer on Trump's legal team, Lindsey Halligan, does not have any experience with federal prosecutions.

Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who worked on Trump's legal challenges to the 2020 election, was previously a partner at the same law firm as Kise - Foley & Lardner - in its Washington, D.C., office.

The firm said last year it was "concerned" after U.S. media reported that Mitchell was on a call in which Trump pressured Georgia's top election official to "find" more votes for him to win the state. Mitchell resigned from the firm soon after.

An FBI search earlier this month at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, found more than 20 boxes of government records, including 11 sets of classified documents.

The Justice Department is investigating Trump for the unlawful retention of national defense information, a violation of the Espionage Act, and it is also investigating whether he tried to obstruct the criminal probe.

Trump's legal team is due to face off against the Justice Department in federal court in West Palm Beach on Thursday, where Trump will ask U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to appoint a special master to conduct a privilege review of the seized records.

Kise has argued cases before both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court. Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard, a friend of Kise, said Kise has the type of broad experience Trump needs.

"He's no shrinking violet," Ballard told Reuters.

In an unusual move last week, the Justice Department unsealed a heavily redacted copy of the legal document that outlined the evidence it used to persuade Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart to authorize a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.

It revealed that Trump had retained records pertaining to the country's most closely guarded secrets, including those involving intelligence gathering and clandestine human sources.

The U.S. National Archives first discovered Trump had retained classified materials in January, after he returned 15 boxes of presidential records he had kept at Mar-a-Lago.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jacqueline Thomsen; additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)