Federal prosecutors running the classified documents investigation of former President Donald Trump are pressing to trigger an exemption to attorney-client privilege, which would force one of Trump’s lawyers to answer questions in front of a grand jury.
It’s an aggressive tactic, suggesting that the Justice Department is not taking its investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified documents lightly.
What We Know So Far
The prosecutors have asked a federal judge to allow for the use of the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege. Typically, communication between an attorney and her client is shielded from disclosures, although certain exemptions exist, one of which is the crime-fraud exception, which pierces the shield of attorney-client privilege when legal advice or legal services rendered were used in furthering a crime. Since prosecutors have filed a motion requesting the crime-fraud exception, we can assume they believe Trump’s lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran, gave Trump legal advice that was used in furthering a crime.
Corcoran appeared before a federal grand jury last week. Presumably, Corcoran, who was a member of the legal team who handled the government’s requests for the return of classified documents that were being held at Mar-a-Lago, was asked about Trump’s handling of said documents. Corcoran is understood to have asserted attorney-client privilege (naturally) to avoid answering questions about his client, Trump.
The questions Corcoran was asked remain unknown. Also unknown: the crime(s) that the Justice Department cited in order to trigger the crime-fraud exemption.
“The push for Mr. Corcoran’s testimony is another sign of the aggressive effort being made by Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the investigation into Mr. Trump,” The New York Times reported. “To secure testimony, Mr. Smith is guiding both investigations into Mr. Trump’s handling of the classified documents and the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in office after his election defeat in 2020 and how they led to the Jan.6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.”
Donald Trump fighting multiple legal battles
How many ways can Donald Trump be investigated or possibly head to jail? Trump is taking fire on multiple legal fronts.
The most pressing, as pointed out above, are the Jack Smith-led DOJ investigations. Both the classified documents investigation and the January 6th investigation could culminate in Trump being charged criminally. If Trump were charged criminally in either case, it would mark the first time in U.S. history that a former president had been charged criminally.
With respect to the January 6th case, the U.S. House of Representatives has already recommended that the DOJ bring charges; the House’s January 6th Committee conducted an eighteen-month-long investigation into Trump’s January 6th-related conduct before concluding Trump should be charged with insurrection (among other things).
Granted, the Democrat-led investigation likely reached its conclusions before conducting a minute’s worth of research; it was a partisan inquiry from the people who brought you Russiagate.
Nonetheless, the committee’s criminal referrals again represent the first time the House has made criminal referrals to the DOJ about a former president.
Trump is also dealing with a variety of legal problems on the civil side. New York Attorney General Letitia James has brought suit against the Trump Organization for misrepresenting the value of company assets in alleged, systemic fraud.
So, Trump is dealing with a lot as he mounts his third consecutive campaign for the presidency. Will Trump’s legal problems finally catch up with him? Maybe, although, Trump seems to have a supernatural knack for slipping away.
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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.