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Trump Lawyer Ordered to Turn Over Docs 03/23 06:15


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court in a sealed order Wednesday 
directed a lawyer for Donald Trump to turn over to prosecutors documents in the 
investigation into the former president's retention of classified records at 
his Florida estate.

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

   The order was reflected in a brief 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.

   But the details appear to correspond with a secret fight before a lower 
court judge over whether Trump lawyer M. Evan Corcoran could be forced to 
provide documents or give grand jury testimony in the Justice Department 
special counsel probe into whether Trump mishandled top-secret information at 

   Corcoran is regarded as relevant to the investigation in part because last 
year he drafted a statement to the Justice Department asserting that a 
"diligent search" for classified documents had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago in 
response to a subpoena. 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, told investigators last fall that 
Corcoran had drafted the 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 is examining whether Trump or anyone in his orbit 
obstructed its efforts to recover all the classified documents, which included 
top-secret material, from his home. No charges have yet been filed. The inquiry 
is one of multiple legal threats Trump faces, including probes in Atlanta and 
Washington over his efforts to undo the election result and a grand jury 
investigation in New York over hush money payments. The New York case appears 
to be nearing completion and building toward an indictment.

   Last week, Beryl Howell, the outgoing chief judge of the U.S. District 
Court, directed Corcoran to answer additional questions before the grand jury. 
He had appeared weeks earlier before the federal grand jury investigating the 
Mar-a-Lago matter, but had invoked attorney-client privilege to avoid answering 
certain questions.

   Though attorney-client privilege shields lawyers from being forced to share 
details of their conversations with clients before prosecutors, the Justice 
Department can get around that if it can convince a judge that a lawyer's 
services were used in furtherance of a crime -- a principle known in the law as 
the "crime-fraud" exception.

   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.

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

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

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