A key lawyer for Donald Trump appeared Friday before a federal grand jury investigating whether the former president sought to keep top-secret documents in his home — testimony that capped an ultimately losing effort by Trump’s legal team to prevent prosecutors from reviewing the lawyer’s notes and other documents in the case.
Shortly before 9 a.m., Evan Corcoran strode into the federal courthouse in D.C., where judges had previously ruled he could not use attorney-client privilege to shield his material from investigators. He left about 12:20 p.m. Both Corcoran and his lawyer, Michael Levy — who accompanied his client to the courthouse but is not allowed to enter the grand jury room with him — declined to comment to waiting reporters.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled last week that there was evidence suggesting Trump misled his lawyers in the course of the classified-documents investigation, and therefore prosecutors were allowed to review the evidence, according to people familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive legal issues.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, so it wasn’t immediately clear how helpful Corcoran’s testimony might be to special counsel Jack Smith and his team, who are trying to determine whether Trump obstructed justice or mishandled national security information.
Federal agents ultimately determined that more than 300 classified documents were kept at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home and private club, after his presidency ended. Last May, the government subpoenaed Trump’s office for the return of all classified documents still in his possession. In response to that subpoena, advisers turned over nearly 40 such documents. But when FBI agents searched his home in August, they found 103 more.
The fight for Corcoran’s information highlights the degree to which prosecutors are trying to gather all available evidence about conversations among Trump and his advisers after they received the subpoena. Corcoran played a lead role in communicating with the Justice Department in response to the subpoena and in telling investigators in June that a diligent search had been done to collect secret documents.
Corcoran’s grand jury appearance suggests Smith has completed a sizable portion of the investigative work in the case, since his team is now questioning one of the people mostly closely involved with Trump on the documents issue.
In previous closed-court arguments over whether Corcoran should have to testify and provide evidence, prosecutors said they had obtained information suggesting there was a deliberate effort not to turn over all the material covered by the May subpoena, according to the people familiar with the matter.
After hearing from both sides, the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution and suggested that Trump’s legal team might not have been honest in its arguments about the issue, one person familiar with the matter said.
The classified-documents investigation is one of several criminal probes focused on Trump. Smith is also overseeing a Justice Department examination of Trump’s alleged efforts to block the results of the 2020 election, while a Manhattan grand jury is hearing evidence of possible falsification of business records concerning hush money payments, and an Atlanta-area grand jury is weighing charges in a probe of activity around that state’s 2020 election results.