Judge: Trump's Attorney-Client Privilege May Be 'Pierced'

Sources say special counsel Jack Smith claimed Trump misled his lawyers over classified docs
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2023 6:31 AM CDT
Judge: Trump's Attorney-Client Privilege May Be 'Pierced'
Former President Donald Trump watches the NCAA Wrestling Championship on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Friday was federal Judge Beryl Howell's last day as chief judge on DC's US District Court, but before she stepped down, she entered a sealed filing with developments on the case involving classified documents seized from former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate last August. Within that filing, sources tell ABC News: evidence from prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith's office that the former president engaged in a "criminal scheme" to intentionally mislead his own attorneys over the documents. According to Howell's ruling, prosecutors showed Trump "had committed criminal violations," and that because of that, attorney-client privilege between Trump and two of his lawyers could be "pierced," per ABC.

CNN notes that Howell's ruling "makes clear for the first time that the Justice Department is arguing it has evidence that Trump may have committed a crime." Howell did note that this prima facie evidence was simply an initial indication of criminal activity, and that a higher evidence bar would need to be reached for prosecutors to bring charges against Trump, and an even higher one to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Sources tell ABC and CNN that one Trump attorney mentioned in the filing is Evan Corcoran, from whom Trump "intentionally concealed" more classified documents than Corcoran knew existed, per "sufficient" evidence shown to Howell by prosecutors.

Prosecutors say that Trump's attorneys certified in June 2022 that just 38 classified documents were found at his Florida estate; in August, however, 100-plus more were found at Mar-a-Lago. The New York Post notes that Corcoran is "likely of particular interest to Smith's team because he drafted a statement signed by another Trump attorney, Christina Bobb" regarding those certifications. The response to ABC's report from a Trump campaign rep: "Shame on Fake News ABC for broadcasting ILLEGALLY LEAKED false allegations from a Never Trump, now former chief judge, against the Trump legal team."

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A statement from Trump himself referred to the "illegally leaked false allegations." Howell's Friday ruling orders Corcoran and another Trump attorney, Jennifer Little, to comply with a grand jury subpoena for testimony. On Tuesday, Trump's legal team sought to put a halt to Howell's ruling with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and the three judges on that panel ordered more information from Trump's lawyers by midnight local time Tuesday and 6am Wednesday. "The extremely tight deadlines—a turnaround essentially unheard of in this court—indicates the seriousness of the matter," notes CNN. There's been no comment from the special counsel's office. (More Donald Trump stories.)

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