National Security

Trump attorney ordered to testify in Mar-a-Lago documents probe

A federal judge ordered Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify before the grand jury assembled to review the mishandling of White House records at Mar-a-Lago, multiple outlets reported Friday. 

In a sealed ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, she found sufficient evidence that Corcoran’s legal advice was given in furtherance of a crime, one of the few determinations that can compel an attorney to discuss communications that would otherwise be covered by attorney-client privilege.

The development is a significant win for special counsel Jack Smith and could make Corcoran a key witness as prosecutors advance an investigation into more than 300 classified records discovered in Trump’s Florida home.

In a warrant to search the property, prosecutors said their removal to Mar-a-Lago could violate the Espionage Act, which prohibits removing or concealing national defense information.

Neither Corcoran or his attorney immediately responded to request for comment.

Corcoran has been representing Trump in his dealings with the Justice Department for the bulk of the time the department has sought the return of the documents.

The repeated attempts to secure them included a June subpoena for the records, with Cororan then handing over a folder with some 38 documents.

Corcoran is also reported to have been the attorney who drafted a letter certifying that all remaining records with classified markings at Mar-a-Lago had been returned, but the letter was ultimately signed by another attorney, Christina Bobb. She reportedly insisted on adding language that said all records had been returned “based upon the information that has been provided to me.”

The Trump campaign dismissed the move as interference with the right to an attorney and attacked Howell, an Obama appointee whose decision comes as she is stepping down as chief judge.  

“Whenever prosecutors target the attorneys, that’s usually a good indication their underlying case is very weak. If they had a real case, they wouldn’t need to play corrupt games with the Constitution. Every American has the right to consult with counsel and have candid discussions — this promotes adherence to the law. We will fight the Department of Justice on this front and all others that jeopardize fundamental American rights and values,” a Trump spokesperson said in a statement.

“Interfering with Americans’ right to an attorney is a serious and weighty matter. For a judge to do so in violation of due process, without allowing for any real hearing, and within a few hours of her expiration date – as chief judge supervising the grand jury – is unAmerican and unacceptable.” 

The remarkable decision from Howell, however, indicates prosecutors were able to supply sufficient evidence that Corcoran’s behavior meets the threshold for the crime-fraud exception, opening the door to a second interview.

Corcoran has already appeared before the grand jury in the case, but declined to answer numerous questions, citing attorney-client privilege. 

It’s not the first time a judge has found one of Trump’s attorneys may have violated the law in the course of giving legal advice.

A California-based federal judge determined in March last year that John Eastman and Trump more likely than not committed crimes in their effort to keep the former president in power.

Eastman crafted memos for the Trump campaign arguing that then-Vice President Pence could buck his duty to certify the election results.

He is now facing disciplinary action from the California State Bar that could result in the loss of his law license.

Updated at 4:37 p.m.

Tags Beryl Howell Jack Smith

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