Judge rules Trump lawyer Corcoran must testify, people familiar with the matter say


A federal judge has granted at least part of a request by U.S. prosecutors to compel a lawyer for Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury about the former president’s possession of classified documents after leaving office, according to two people briefed on the decision.

Lawyer Evan Corcoran declined to answer questions from investigators about his interactions with Trump, citing the attorney-client privilege, a principle of US legal practice that says lawyers must keep confidential what their clients tell them.

U.S. attorneys say there are exceptions to the privilege, including when there is evidence that a client used the lawyer’s legal services to aid in a crime. In secret court documents and a closed-door hearing earlier this month, people familiar with the matter said, prosecutors sought to show Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington that there were grounds for a “fraud exception with crimes”.

Howell agreed, said the two people briefed on the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. Her decision was first reported by CNN.

Presidents and vice presidents routinely deal with classified documents, but strict guidelines from various laws have clear guidelines on the subject. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Trump’s team is expected to ask incoming Chief U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg, who succeeded the term-limited Howell at midnight Saturday, to stay his order while they appeal, people familiar with the matter said.

The people did not provide details about Howell’s decision, and the scope of the questions Corcoran must answer was unclear. Trump’s team won’t see the decision until next week, the people said, after the Justice Department has a chance to offer to redact parts that deal with details of the investigation that prosecutors want to keep secret.

Howell’s decision seems to note a victory for prosecutors as they investigate whether Trump or someone close to him committed a crime and charges are due after an FBI search of the former president’s home in August turned up more than 100 classified documents. The government had been trying for more than a year to recover all documents in Trump’s possession since he left the White House, and had issued a subpoena months before the search demanding any material with classified markings.

Trump spokesman Stephen Cheng said prosecutors’ efforts to get Corcoran to testify was a sign their investigation was in trouble.

“When prosecutors target lawyers, it’s usually a good indication that their case is very weak,” he said in a statement. “Every American has the right to consult with a lawyer and have frank discussions – this promotes compliance with the law.” We will fight the Justice Department on this front and all others that threaten basic American rights and values.

Corcoran handled the Trump team’s initial responses to government requests for documents still in the former president’s possession. He gave assurances to the Justice Department that he led a thorough review of documents in Trump’s possession in response to the May 2022 subpoena and identified and turned over all classified records. The documents subsequently found in the FBI search included highly sensitive material about Iran and China, reports The Washington Post.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump or anyone around him mishandled classified documents at Mar-a-Lago or obstructed the investigation or efforts to retrieve the material. According to people familiar with the case, prosecutors have taken an interest in efforts by Trump and advisers to avoid returning material to the government and whether they lied to federal officials.

Corcoran appeared before a grand jury hearing evidence in the case in January, according to two people familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. He was asked if he had spoken to Trump about missing documents or the search he conducted in response to the subpoena, a person familiar with his testimony said. But he repeatedly declined to provide information, citing Trump’s right to keep conversations with his lawyer private, the person said.

Special counsel Jack Smith — appointed to lead the probe in November after Trump announced he was running for president again — has stepped up scrutiny of Trump’s legal team in recent weeks, turning some of his many current or former lawyers into witnesses or potential targets. an investigation.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on Howell’s decision Friday, and an attorney for Corcoran did not respond to requests for comment.

Smith’s office is also conducting a separate investigation into whether attempts to interfere in the transition of power from Trump to President Biden after the 2020 election violated criminal law. In that investigation, he has subpoenaed former Trump administration officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence, whose lawyers said he would oppose the subpoena, arguing that because he was president of the Senate at the time, he had the right of legislative immunity.

In addition to the special counsel’s investigations, Trump is being investigated in Georgia for his alleged efforts to overturn the results of that state’s 2020 presidential election and in Manhattan for his role in making secret payments to a former adult film star during on the campaign trail in 2016. Movie star Stormy Daniels claimed she had an affair with Trump years earlier. He denied the affair and denied any wrongdoing in the documents and matters related to the election.

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