A three-judge federal appeals panel for the U.S. District Court in DC ruled Wednesday that an attorney for former President Trump must hand over documents related Trump’s mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House.
The panel rejected a request by the Trump team to stay a ruling Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell.
Her ruling—on her last day as the chief judge for the court—came after prosecutors in the special counsel’s office presented evidence that Trump knowingly and deliberately misled his attorneys about his retention of the classified documents.
As a result, the court has ruled that Trump attorney Evan Corcoran cannot shield himself behind attorney-client privilege and must turn over to investigators records related to what Howell called Trump’s alleged “criminal scheme” to conceal classified material at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, including handwritten notes, invoices and transcripts of personal audio recordings.
In response to a grand jury subpoena, Corcoran had instructed another Trump attorney, Christina Bobb, to sign a written statement to the Department of Justice in June that a diligent search for classified documents had turned up no additional material. The statement, however, was not true. On August 8 the FBI acted on search warrant to retrieve hundreds of White House documents—more than 100 of which were marked classified—from Mar-a-Lago.
When Attorney General Merrick Garland named veteran prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate possible criminal actions in both the classified documents case and Trump’s role surrounding the January 6, 2021 insurrection, he specifically mentioned “obstruction of justice” as one of the areas of investigation.
By definition, knowingly and deliberately misleading his own attorneys falls under the umbrella of obstruction, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents.