Trump appeals attorney’s testimony in classified documents case

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A federal appeals court is weighing whether Donald Trump’s lawyer should turn over testimony, memos and other evidence to prosecutors investigating how classified documents ended up at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home in exchange for the return of all key files. Court records and familiar with the matter.

Trump’s legal team appealed the lower court judge’s ruling last week, which attorney Evan Corcoran said required the attorneys to turn over evidence. Because his legal services may have been used to facilitate a potential crime — impeding government efforts to retrieve highly sensitive documents — the people familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sealed court proceedings.

Presidents and vice presidents routinely handle classified documents, but strict guidelines from various statutes have clear guidelines on the matter. (Video: Adriana Euro/The Washington Post)

The former president’s attorneys argued that they were protected by attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors responded — and U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ultimately agreed — that the “criminal-fraud exception” to the attorney-client privilege applied in the case, people familiar with the matter said.

As part of Howell’s ruling, Corcoran was ordered to provide judicial memos, transcripts of records and invoices, which the judge has reviewed, according to a person familiar with the matter. He concluded that there was evidence that Trump may have misled his own lawyers on the classified documents issue. Details of Howell’s judgment First reported by ABC News.

An appeals panel has already begun reconsidering the decision after Trump’s lawyers appealed, people familiar with the matter said. A new federal court filing shows the three-judge appeals panel is working on an unusually short schedule — one side in the case is due to file its papers by midnight Tuesday, and the other by 6 a.m. Wednesday.

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The unusually quick timeline suggests the justices — all nominated by Democratic presidents — want to rule quickly. The panel included former DC Superior Court Judge Florence Pan and former South Carolina Judge J. Michael Childs is there. Both were nominated by President Biden On the federal bench, and Judge Stephen G. Childs was on the president’s list of potential nominees to fill the Supreme Court openings left by Breyer. The panel’s third judge, Cornelia DL Billard, was nominated by President Barack Obama.

If the panel rules against Trump’s appeal, the former president could seek to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, though it’s not clear he has the best chance of success.

Corcoran’s fight for information highlights the extent to which prosecutors are trying to gather evidence of conversations between Trump and his advisers after receiving a subpoena in May last year seeking all documents with classified identifiers.

In closed-court arguments on Corcoran’s testimony and evidence, attorneys for special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the Justice Department’s investigation, wrote in the documents. The lawsuit, according to people familiar with the matter, contained evidence of a deliberate effort to keep all material covered by the subpoena from being turned over.

After hearing from both sides, Howell ruled in favor of the lawsuit and suggested Trump’s legal team may not have been entirely honest in its arguments on the issue, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The classified documents probe is one of several criminal investigations focusing on Trump. Smith is overseeing judicial investigations into Trump’s alleged efforts to sway the 2020 election results, while a Manhattan grand jury hears evidence of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments, and an Atlanta-area grand jury weighs in. The allegations stem from an investigation into activities surrounding the state’s 2020 election results.

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Ann E. Marimov contributed to this report.

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