The New York Times reports, Judge Rules Trump Lawyer Must Testify in Documents Inquiry:

A federal judge has ruled that prosecutors overseeing the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents can pierce the assertion of attorney-client privilege and compel one of his lawyers to answer more questions before a grand jury, two people familiar with the case said on Friday.

In making her ruling, the judge, Beryl A. Howell, found that the government had met the threshold for a special provision of the law known as the crime-fraud exception. That provision allows prosecutors to work around attorney-client privilege when they have reason to believe that legal advice or legal services have been used in furthering a crime.

The New York Times reported last month that prosecutors had asked Judge Howell to apply the crime-fraud exception to the grand jury testimony of M. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer who has represented Mr. Trump since last spring, as the documents investigation began heating up. Mr. Corcoran in recent months appeared before the grand jury and asserted attorney-client privilege while declining to answer certain questions.

Attorney-client privilege is a bedrock legal principle designed to protect private communications between lawyers and those they represent. Judge Howell’s ruling, issued under seal, that the crime-fraud exception applies in this case is important because it places the imprimatur of a federal judge on prosecutors’ contention that Mr. Corcoran’s legal work may have been used in the commission of a crime.

It remained unclear what crime prosecutors are asserting may have been committed — or who may have committed it. But among the subjects that the Justice Department has been examining since last year is whether Mr. Trump or his associates obstructed justice by failing to comply with repeated demands to return a trove of government material he took with him from the White House upon leaving office, including hundreds of documents with classified markings.

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Last May, before Jack Smith took over the investigation as a special counsel, federal prosecutors issued a subpoena for any classified documents still in Mr. Trump’s possession — a move taken after he had voluntarily handed over an initial batch of records to the National Archives that turned out to include almost 200 classified documents.

In response to the subpoena, Mr. Corcoran met with federal investigators in June and gave them another set of documents, more than 30 of which carried classification markings. He then drafted a statement for another lawyer [part-time OAN correspondent Christina Bobb] to give the Justice Department saying that a “diligent search” had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s club and residence in Florida, and that no more classified materials remained there. [This was a false affidavit.]

Roughly three weeks after Mr. Corcoran’s meeting with investigators, federal prosecutors issued another subpoena — this one for surveillance footage from a camera near a storage room at Mar-a-Lago. Among the subjects that Mr. Smith’s office wants Mr. Corcoran to testify about is a phone call he had with Mr. Trump around the time the subpoena for the video footage was issued, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The surveillance footage obtained through the subpoena showed at least one Trump aide moving boxes that had been held in the storage room. That prompted prosecutors to escalate their investigation and seek a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.

In early August, F.B.I. agents armed with the warrant descended on the property and carted away more than 100 additional classified documents. The affidavit submitted by the Justice Department to obtain the warrant said that there was “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction” would be found in the search.

Now that Mr. Smith has obtained an order forcing Mr. Corcoran to testify, Mr. Corcoran can appear before the grand jury and answer its questions, or appear and invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He did not respond on Friday to messages seeking comment.

[J]udge Howell has been handling these secret proceedings as the chief judge of Federal District Court in Washington. But she stepped down on Friday from that role as part of a normal rotation and was replaced by a new chief judge, James E. Boasberg.

“On her final day as the top judge in the District of Columbia on Friday afternoon—in her final act—Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell did more than grant the Justice Department permission to question former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney. She actually took the rare step of handing over the lawyer’s notes to federal prosecutors, according to a person familiar with the arrangement.” Federal Judge Hands Over Trump’s Lawyer’s Notes to DOJ:

In doing so, Howell may have planted the seeds for a future constitutional challenge. But in the immediate term, she’s handed Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith a parting gift: what she deemed evidence of a crime involving the former president improperly hoarding classified documents after he left office.

M. Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor, has represented Trump in that classified documents scandal. And while Corcoran already has his hands full as Trump’s lawyer, the probe now appears to have put Corcoran in legal jeopardy himself.

According to a source, Corcoran’s professional notes about private communications with his client were turned over to Judge Howell, who was conducting an “in camera review”—a carefully controlled screening of confidential records that typically takes place in a judge’s chambers.

Judges who come to the conclusion that some legally protected and sensitive material must be turned over to an opposing side normally issue an order directing one side to do it, along with a deadline. Doing so gives the losing side the ability to appeal to a higher court—and prevent irreversible damage that could forever taint a case, according to two lawyers not involved in the case who spoke to The Daily Beast but asked not to be identified.

But Howell appears to have skipped that careful yet tedious approach—and just handed Smith a batch of documents that may show Trump and one of his lawyers planning a crime.

Either way, Trump’s legal team is left without recourse, and federal prosecutors have more evidence to bolster the next steps in their ballooning investigation.

She’s taken all the legal relief out of their hands. If she orders them to do it, they can take up an appeal on an emergency basis. She may have been concerned from what she read in the documents. She may have not trusted them to comply with an order,” said David Cross, an experienced federal litigator at the Washington firm Morrison & Foerster who is not involved in the Trump case.

[I]n turning over his notes, Howell’s alleged actions stand in stark contrast with the more traditional approach taken by a federal judge in California who faced similar questions last year. In that case, the Jan. 6 Committee was trying to access documents protected by attorney-client privilege to explore how Trump employed conservative legal scholar John Eastman in an attempt to stay in power after losing the 2020 election.

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter concluded that “President Trump and Dr. Eastman more likely than not committed obstruction of an official proceeding… and conspiracy to defraud the United States.” But when he ordered on June 7, 2022 that Eastman turn over 159 documents to the congressional committee, he gave Eastman a day to comply.

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Howell’s last-minute decision in the Trump case could mark a turning point in the special counsel’s probe, because it has the ability to supercharge the investigation. But notably, the saga keeps playing out behind closed doors. Her orders in this case remain sealed, and the grand jury investigation continues in legally protected secrecy.

[So] while Trump’s legal skrimaging in open court against the New York Attorney General allows the American public to see how the Trump Organization has flouted subpoenas and slowed down investigators, this Justice Department effort continues largely in the shadows—even though the consequences could be far more serious.

Federal prosecutors have been exploring criminal charges against the former president for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, defrauding the nation and its courts with bogus election fraud conspiracies, and the way he refused to return classified documents kept at his South Florida oceanside estate of Mar-a-Lago long after leaving the White House.

Shit is about to get real for Trump’s corrupt attorneys, M. Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb. They can be charged with obstruction of justice or they can cut a deal to testify against their client, Donald Trump.