TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — One of the lawyers expected to help former President Donald Trump defend himself against federal charges is Chris Kise, an attorney who has been closely aligned with Florida Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
Trump will make an initial appearance in a Miami federal courthouse on Tuesday afternoon on 37 counts stemming from his handling and retention of classified documents he took from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate.
It’s unclear if Kise will accompany Trump into the courtroom during Tuesday’s hearing, though Kise is admitted to practice law in the Southern District of Florida. Todd Blanche, who Trump has tapped to lead the legal team fighting the documents case, is expected to be in the courtroom.
Kise was first brought on to assist with the case last August and since then has joined Continental PLLC , a relatively new law firm that was founded with the help of Carlos Trujillo, a former state legislator who was appointed ambassador to the Organization of American States by Trump.
Trump’s legal team has undergone some turmoil in the run-up to his appearance in federal court, with two of his lawyers, Jim Trusty and John Rowley, stepping aside from the case late last week and another, Tim Parlatore, resigning from the team in May.
Kise on Monday declined to comment about his role in the case.
Kise, who was once solicitor general under then-Attorney General Charlie Crist when Crist was still in the GOP, played a pivotal role in the 2018 election contest between DeSantis and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum. Kise represented Adam Corey, a lobbyist and former friend of Gillum, amid a swirl of questions about possibly improper trips Gillum made while he was Tallahassee mayor, including who paid for them. Kise at the time refuted some of the assertions made by Gillum that he had paid for a trip to Costa Rica, and Kise also released damaging texts related to an ongoing ethics probe of Gillum.
Gillum would ultimately lose the election narrowly to DeSantis as Republicans hammered the Democratic challenger over his ethics issues and an ongoing corruption probe into Tallahassee City Hall. Gillum was eventually charged in 2022, but federal authorities last month dropped the charges after a jury acquitted Gillum of lying to the FBI and jurors deadlocked on other charges.
Kise, who once ran for the state senate back in 1998, has long-standing connections to many of Florida’s Republican power brokers extending back to his time as the top attorney for Crist. After serving as solicitor general, he worked for the law firm of Foley & Lardner and was one of the attorneys who litigated Florida’s long-running battle with the state of Georgia over water rights.
Kise also played a key role on the transition team for newly-elected Gov. Rick Scott in 2011. Kise dealt with a public relations crisis after Scott ordered an investigation into emails from his and his transition team that were deleted, a possible violation of state law.
After DeSantis’ narrow win over Gillum in 2018 — a victory helped guided by Susie Wiles, who now works as a top adviser to Trump — Kise was appointed counselor to the DeSantis transition team. Wiles and DeSantis later had a falling out that led to her being pushed out of Trump’s reelection campaign in 2019. But Wiles was brought back into the Trump orbit later and is now considered an integral part of Trump’s third campaign for the White House.
Betsy Woodruff Swan contributed to this story.
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