A federal appeals court has directed Donald Trump’s lawyer to hand over to prosecutors documents in the investigation into the former president’s retention of classified records at his estate in Florida.
The ruling represents a significant win for the Justice Department, which has focused for months on the hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and why Trump and his representatives resisted demands to return them to the government.
The order was given via an online notice by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is sealed, and none of the parties in the dispute is mentioned by name.
The details seems to correspond with a secret fight over whether Trump’s lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran, could be compelled to supply documents or give grand jury testimony in into whether Trump mishandled top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago.
Corcoran is regarded as relevant to the investigation because he drafted a statement to the Justice Department that a “diligent search” for classified documents had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago. That claim proved untrue as FBI agents weeks later searched the home with a warrant and found roughly 100 additional documents with classified markings.
Another Trump lawyer, Christina Bobb, informed investigators that Corcoran presented a draft letter and asked her to sign it in her role as a designated custodian of Trump’s records.
A Justice Department investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith and his team of prosecutors examines whether Trump or anyone in his orbit obstructed its efforts to recover all the classified documents, including top-secret material, from his home. No charges have yet been filed.
On the Mar-a-Lago matter, Corcoran had invoked attorney-client privilege to avoid answering certain questions when directed to answer additional questions before the grand jury.
Howell ruled in the Justice Department’s favor shortly before stepping aside as chief judge Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to discuss a sealed proceeding and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. That ruling was subsequently appealed, and the court records show the dispute before the federal appeals panel concerned an order that was issued last Friday by Howell.
Members of panel that made the decision are: Cornelia Pillard (an appointee of former President Barack Obama), J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan (appointees of President Joe Biden).
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