(WASHINGTON) — An appeals court on Wednesday rejected an effort by former President Donald Trump’s attorneys to block Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran from having to testify and hand over records to special counsel Jack Smith’s team investigating Trump’s handling of classified records after leaving the White House, according to court records.
The three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled extraordinarily swiftly against the request for a stay by Trump’s attorneys, who sought to block an order last Friday by the chief judge for the D.C. District Court, who determined the government had made a prima facie case that Corcoran’s legal services were likely used by Trump in the furtherance of a crime.
Corcoran was expected to testify as soon as Friday, sources said.
D.C. district judge Beryl Howell ruled that prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith’s office had made a “prima facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations,” according to sources who described her Friday order, and that attorney-client privileges invoked by two of his lawyers, Corcoran and Jennifer Little, could therefore be pierced.
Sources familiar with the matter further described to ABC New the six topics that Corcoran was ordered by Judge Howell to testify about, over which he had previously sought to assert attorney-client privilege.
The topics indicate that Smith has zeroed in on Trump’s actions surrounding his response to a May 11 DOJ subpoena that sought all remaining classified documents in his possession — which investigators have described as key to Trump’s alleged “scheme” to obstruct the investigation, sources said.
ABC News reported exclusively Tuesday that Smith believes Trump intentionally and deliberately misled his own attorneys about Trump’s retention of classified materials after leaving office, according to sources who described the judge’s sealed ruling piercing Corcoran’s claims of privilege.
According to sources familiar with the filing, Smith wants information from Corcoran on whether Trump or anyone else in his employ was aware of the signed certification that was drafted by Corcoran and signed by Trump attorney Christina Bobb then submitted in response to the May 11 subpoena from the DOJ seeking all remaining documents with classified markings in Trump’s possession. That certification was later discovered to be false, prompting the eventual court-authorized search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in which FBI investigators recovered more than 100 classified documents — including some located in Trump’s personal office, according to previously released court documents.
Smith’s investigators specifically want to ask Corcoran whether Trump was aware of the statements in the certification, which claimed a “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago had been conducted, and if Trump approved of it being provided to the government, sources familiar with the filing said.
Corcoran was ordered to detail the steps he took to determine where documents responsive to DOJ’s May subpoena may have been located, sources said. He also was ordered to provide testimony on why he believed all documents with classification markings were held in Mar-a-Lago’s storage room, as he had allegedly confirmed to a top DOJ official when investigators visited the estate in June of last year.
Investigators have sought to question Corcoran on the people involved in choosing Bobb as the designated custodian of records for documents that Trump took with him after leaving the White House, and any communications he exchanged with Bobb in connection with her selection, per sources familiar with the filing.
Investigators also want Corcoran to tell them what he discussed with Trump in a June 24 phone call on the same day that the Trump Organization received a second grand jury subpoena demanding surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago that would show whether anyone moved boxes in and out of the storage room, which Trump’s team had previously barred investigators from searching during their visit to the estate earlier that month, the sources said.
According to sources, Howell’s order piercing attorney-client privilege on that topic said that the government had characterized the conversation as furthering “a different stage” of Trump’s “ongoing scheme” to prevent the government from retrieving all classified documents from Mar-a-Lago.
“There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump,” a Trump spokesperson told ABC News. “The deranged Democrats and their comrades in the mainstream media are corrupting the legal process and weaponizing the justice system in order to manipulate public opinion, because they are clearly losing the political battle. The real story here is that prosecutors only attack lawyers when they have no case whatsoever.”
A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.
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