A panel of federal appeals judges swiftly ruled Wednesday that a lawyer for former President Donald Trump must testify in more detail in the investigation of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago vacation home.
In a major blow to Trump, the three-judge panel took just a few hours to order Evan Corcoran to answer questions about what Trump told him about dozens of secret government documents that Trump kept in defiance of a federal subpoena.
Corcoran is now expected to testify before the grand jury investigating the documents case on Friday and will not be allowed to invoke attorney-client privilege on most of Trump’s claims.
The judges upheld the decision of Washington DC Circuit Court Judge Beryl Howell, who ruled that prosecutors presented sufficient evidence that Trump violated the law and inappropriately tried to use Corcoran to protect himself.
The panel failed remarkably quickly just a few hours after a midnight filing by the Trump team and a 6 a.m. counter-filing by special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors’ team.
Trump’s legal team has admitted defeat on the issue and will not seek to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, CNN reported.
Corcoran reportedly instructed another attorney last spring to claim that he had “diligently” searched for documents in Mar-a-Lago after Trump turned over a cache of them in response to a subpoena.
It turned out that more than 100 of the documents remained in a basement repository and on Trump’s own desk, including top-secret assessments of another country’s nuclear weapons, effectively proving the lawyers lied to the feds.
The lawyer will now be forced to answer questions from prosecutors about the false statement, which could force him to frame Trump. Corcoran could still invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination, but that could lead to him being criminally charged for obstruction.
It is extremely rare for judges to approve prosecutors’ claims to invoke the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, which requires convincing evidence that a suspect used his or her attorney to carry out a crime or fraud.
The documents case is not related to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into Trump’s payment of money to porn star Stormy Daniels or Smith’s investigation into the former president’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol.