Appeals court backs DOJ, forcing Trump attorney to aid documents probe
An appeals court on Wednesday rejected attempts by former President Trump’s legal team to challenge a Friday ruling ordering his attorney Evan Corcoran to produce documents related to the probe into the potential mishandling of records at Mar-a-Lago.
A three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with special counsel Jack Smith and backed a lower court judge who on Friday issued a sealed ruling directing Corcoran to cooperate on several lines of inquiry he had rebuffed, citing attorney-client privilege.
In that opinion, D.C. District Court Judge Beryl Howell determined that the Justice Department had presented sufficient evidence that his legal advice may have been in furtherance of a crime — igniting the crime fraud exception that allows the piercing of attorney-client privilege.
The appeal by Trump’s team follows reporting from ABC News indicating that Trump may have intentionally concealed from Corcoran the existence of additional classified records held at his Florida home.
According to ABC, Howell’s ruling compelled Corcoran to testify along six lines of inquiry where Cocoran declined to answer questions in a prior appearance before a grand jury. She also compelled him to produce documents, notes, invoices and even transcripts or audio recordings related to the case, which she at one point referred to as a criminal scheme.
Trump’s team did not immediately respond to request for comment, but previously pushed back on ABC’s story, dismissing it as “illegally leaked.”
Wednesday’s decision comes from three Obama appointees following an exceptionally expedited schedule. Attorneys were told late Tuesday that the Trump’s team brief would be due at midnight, while DOJ’s attorneys would need to file by 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Though publicly docketed, the arguments from both Trump’s team and the Justice Department are under seal.
Any further challenge from Trump would fall before the Supreme Court.
Corcoran’s testimony could be key to the Mar-a-Lago investigation.
It was Corcoran who, in June 2022, turned over 38 additional records to prosecutors after the Justice Department issued a subpoena for any remaining documents bearing classified markings. He also reportedly drafted a statement saying all classified records had been returned but turned the certification over to another attorney to sign.
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, wrote on Twitter that testimony from Corcoran “could lead to further piercing of privileged conversations.”
“The more important piece of evidence ordered by the Judge is ‘transcriptions of personal audio recordings.’ This suggests that Corcoran may have recorded conversations with Trump, his client,” Mariotti wrote.
“Regardless of who he recorded, the Judge found that those recorded conversations constitute evidence of what she called Trump’s ‘criminal scheme.’ That could be extremely powerful and important evidence.”
—Updated at 4:28 p.m.
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