WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors investigating potential mishandling of confidential documents at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate will again be able to question a Trump attorney before a grand jury, a judge ruled in a sealed order.
The order will require M. Evan Corcoran to answer additional questions as prosecutors continue their investigation into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, as well as potential attempts to obstruct that investigation. The order was described on Friday by a person who knew him, who was not authorized to discuss sealed proceedings and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The exact scope of the order, which is expected to be appealed, was not immediately clear. Neither Corcoran nor his attorney returned messages seeking comment, and a spokesperson for Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation, also did not respond to an email about the order.
A Trump spokesman said the Trump team “will fight the Justice Department on this front and any others that undermine basic American rights and values.”
Corcoran had already appeared weeks ago before a federal grand jury in Washington investigating the Mar-a-Lago matter, but he had invoked attorney-client privilege by refusing to answer some questions. That privilege protects attorneys from being forced to share details of conversations they have with clients with prosecutors.
Prosecutors can circumvent that privilege if they can convince a judge that the services of an attorney were used to further a crime, a principle known as a criminal fraud exception. The Justice Department invoked that objection in this case, arguing with Beryl Howell, outgoing federal court judge in Washington, DC, that more testimony was needed.
Howell issued his order allowing at least some additional testimony before his term as chief justice ends Friday. She is replaced as chief justice by James “Jeb” Boasberg, a fellow Obama appointee who has served on the federal bench since 2011.
Corcoran is considered relevant to the investigation in part because he drafted a statement to the Justice Department last year saying that a “diligent search” of classified documents had been conducted in Mar-a-Lago in response to a subpoena . Months later, however, FBI agents searched the house with a warrant and found about 100 additional documents with classified marks.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump or someone in his orbit obstructed his efforts to recover all classified documents, which included top-secret material, from his home.
As chief justice, Boasberg will oversee federal grand juries, including those dealing with Trump matters, in court and preside over sealed disputes like Corcoran’s.
Separately, former Vice President Mike Pence said he will challenge a grand jury subpoena seeking to force him to testify in the special counsel’s Jan. 6 investigation. Pence argued that because he was sitting in his role as Senate president on Jan. 6, as he presided over a joint session of Congress to certify the election results, he is protected from being forced to address his actions under the Constitution” speech or debate clause” that protects members of Congress.
It is unclear how that disagreement will be resolved.
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