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Trump attorney ordered to hand over documents from Mar-a-Lago case

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court in a sealed order Wednesday ordered a lawyer for Donald Trump to turn over documents to prosecutors as part of the investigation into the former president’s retention of classified records in his Florida area.

The decision is a significant victory for the Justice Department, which for months has focused not only on hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, but also on why Trump and his officials resisted requests to return them to the government. It suggests the court sided with prosecutors who argued behind closed doors that Trump was using his legal representation to prosecute a crime.

The order was reflected in a brief online notice by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is sealed and none of the parties to the dispute are mentioned by name.

But the details appear to line up with a secret tussle in front of a lower court judge over whether Trump’s attorney, Mr. Evan Corcoran, could be compelled to provide documents or testify before a grand jury as part of the trial. Justice Department special counsel investigation into whether Trump mishandled top-secret information at Mar-à-Lago.

Corcoran is considered relevant to the investigation in part because last year he penned a statement to the Justice Department saying a ‘diligent search’ of classified documents was conducted at Mar-a-Lago in response. to a subpoena. This claim turned out to be false as FBI agents weeks later searched the house with a warrant and found approximately 100 additional documents with classified marks.

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Another Trump lawyer, Christina Bobb, told investigators last fall that Corcoran drafted the letter and asked her to sign it in her role as the designated custodian of Trump’s records.

A Justice Department investigation led by Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team of prosecutors is investigating whether Trump or someone in his orbit obstructed his efforts to retrieve all classified documents, which included top secret documents, from his residence. No charges have yet been filed. The probe is one of multiple legal threats Trump faces, including probes in Atlanta and Washington into his efforts to overturn the election result and a grand jury probe in New York into silent payments. The New York case appears to be coming to an end and heading towards an indictment.

Last week, Beryl Howell, the outgoing U.S. District Court Chief Judge, ordered Corcoran to answer additional questions before the grand jury. He had appeared weeks earlier before the federal grand jury investigating the Mar-a-Lago case, but invoked attorney-client privilege to avoid answering some questions.

Although attorney-client privilege prevents lawyers from being compelled to share details of their conversations with their clients in front of prosecutors, the Justice Department can circumvent this if it can convince a judge that the services of a lawyer were used in the prosecution of a crime – a principle known in the law as the “crime-fraud” exception.

Howell ruled in favor of the Justice Department shortly before stepping down as chief justice on Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to discuss sealed proceedings and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. That decision was later appealed, and court records show that the dispute before the federal appeals committee concerned an order issued last Friday by Howell.

The three-judge panel that made the ruling includes Cornelia Pillard, an appointee by former President Barack Obama, and J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, both appointees by President Joe Biden. The order came just hours after the court imposed tight deadlines on both parties to file written briefs making their case.

A lawyer for Corcoran did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday, and a lawyer for Trump declined to comment on the sealed order.


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