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What Is Donald Trump Afraid Of?

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Image by Gage Skidmore.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump seeks to block lawyers’ testimony – Multiple lawyers for the former president have testified before the grand jury looking into his efforts to overturn the election in 2020, and Trump is seeking to block their testimony from being used in the special counsel probe. 

There are multiple grand juries closing in on former President Donald Trump. And the ex-president is seeking to deny some materials to one of them, in the form of testimony by three lawyers. 

According to ABC News, Trump is trying to stop Special Counsel Jack Smith from using grand jury testimony provided by three of his former attorneys. The lawyers, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, his former deputy Patrick Philbin, and attorney Eric Herschmann, all testified in connection with Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his role on January 6

The matter has gone to an appeals court, with Smith’s office arguing that “the matter is moot,” since the three lawyers had already spoken before the grand jury. It’s a battle that has been going on for months but hasn’t been publicly reported until now. 

Cipollone was the White House Counsel, and that office is meant to represent the institution of the presidency, rather than the individual who is the president. 

Another Trump attorney, Evan Corcoran, had testified before the grand jury in connection with the other side of Smith’s probe, looking at the Mar-a-Lago documents issue; prosecutors are using the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege. There is a separate fight over whether former Vice President Mike Pence will be compelled to testify. 

“The DOJ is continuously stepping far outside the standard norms in attempting to destroy the long-accepted, long-held, Constitutionally based standards of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege,” a Trump source told ABC News. 

Cipollone was with Trump during the events of January 6. And both Cipollone and Herschmann were both part of what Axios described as “the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency,” during which Michael Flynn, former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, and attorney Sidney Powell pushed outlandish conspiracy theories, to the resistance of the lawyers. 

During that meeting, among other moments, Byrne suggested seizing voting machines, stating that “there are guys with big guns and badges who can get these things.” Herschmann replied, “What are you, three years old?” 

In other news involving Trump Administration lawyers, Newsweek reported this week that Stefan Passantino, an attorney who worked in the White House Counsel’s office during the Trump presidency, could be facing disbarment. This is due to what is described as allegations that he tampered with witness testimony before the January 6 Committee. 

The group known as Lawyers Defending American Democracy filed a 23-page complaint with the Washington, D.C., bar this week, stating that Passantino pressured Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to provide false testimony. 

“In a prominent example, as they emerged from a Committee hearing, Mr. Passantino told her that she should ignore her concern that she had committed perjury moments earlier when she told the Committee under oath that she did not recall an incident she did in fact recall,” the complaint says. “Beyond that, Mr. Passantino repeatedly suggested that financial gain in the form of employment security might follow if Ms. Hutchinson cooperated with ongoing efforts to conceal some of the activities that occurred within the White House in advance of and during the assault on the United States Capitol.”

Hutchinson, who delivered dramatic testimony last summer about the event sof January 6, stated just that about Passantino. 

“We just want to focus on protecting the president,” Hutchinson told the Committee she was told by the lawyer. “We all know you’re loyal… Let’s just get you in and out, and this day will be easy, I promise.”

The same group has filed complaints against Trump lawyers before, such as Kenneth Chesebro, and also backed former attorney Michael Cohen after he broke with Donald Trump. 

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Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.