Judge ordering ex-president's attorney to testify means 'Trump probably committed crimes': legal experts
A federal judge Friday afternoon ordered an attorney for Donald Trump to testify in the U.S. Dept. of Justice's special counsel’s investigation into the ex-president's unlawful retention and refusal to return hundreds of documents with classified and top secret markings along with thousands of other items removed from the White House and sent to Mar-a-Lago.
Classifying the judge's ruling as "monumental," CNN reports U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ordered top Trump defense attorney Evan Corcoran to provide additional testimony, and "said in an order under seal that Justice Department prosecutors have met the threshold for the crime-fraud exception for Corcoran."
Just one day ago ABC News reported the special counsel, Jack Smith, had been pushing for Judge Howell to order Corcoran to testify about a call between Trump and Corcoran.
"The alleged call would have been on the same day that investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization for surveillance footage from Trump’'s Mar-a-Lago resort as the government grew suspicious that Trump continued to hold onto classified materials even after one of his attorneys asserted in a sworn statement that he had complied with a subpoena requesting any remaining documents in his possession."
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The crime-fraud exception is the critical marker, one that legal experts have jumped on in commenting about Judge Howell's order.
Laurence Tribe, the noted Harvard law professor (retired) who literally wrote the book on the U.S. Constitution, enthusiastically weighed in.
"In finding that Evan Corcoran's communications with Trump about the Mar-a-Lago documents fell within the crime/fraud exception, the District Court has held that Trump probably committed crimes with respect to those top secret documents," Tribe explained.
"That's a BFD!" he exclaimed.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti observed, "This is a remarkable ruling."
"Judge Howell concluded that communications with Trump’s attorney are subject to the crime-fraud exception. Prosecutors must have significant evidence," he said. "Judges are typically reluctant to pierce attorney-client privilege."
Mondaire Jones, the former Democratic U.S. Congressman, an attorney, and a CNN political commentator wrote, "I don’t think people understand how rare it is to pierce the attorney-client privilege using the crime-fraud exception. This is serious stuff."
Ryan Goodman, NYU and (former) Harvard professor of law, agrees with CNN's "monumental" classification.
He explains, "Corcoran likely has direct evidence relevant to both core crimes under investigation: Willful retention of the documents [and] Obstruction," he tweeted. "He apparently prepared false certification for DOJ. He led DOJ to storage room but refused access to boxes."
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Goodman goes on, pointing to a September 2022 New York Times article mentioning former Trump attorney Eric Herschmann:
"Worth recalling this report in which Eric Herschmann, pushing back against Corcoran in an email, quoted words from federal witness tampering statute."
"Very serious," concludes attorney and CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman.
Watch CNN's report below and see tweets above or at this link.
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