Trump lawyer must hand over materials related to classified documents case, court says

A man in a suit and tie walking away from a car
Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran drafted a statement before the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last year claiming that a “diligent search” for classified documents had been conducted.
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

A federal appeals court on Wednesday directed a lawyer for Donald Trump to turn over to prosecutors any records related to the former president’s retention of classified documents at his Florida estate.

The order is reflected in a brief notice by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is sealed, and none of the parties in the dispute are mentioned by name.

But the details appear to correspond with a closed-door fight before a lower court judge over whether Evan Corcoran could be forced to provide documents or give grand jury testimony in the Justice Department’s special counsel probe into whether Trump mishandled top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago.


Last Friday, Beryl Howell, the outgoing chief judge of the U.S. District Court, directed Corcoran to answer additional questions before the grand jury investigating the Mar-a-Lago matter. He had appeared weeks earlier before the federal grand jury, but had invoked attorney-client privilege to avoid answering certain questions.

Though attorney-client privilege shields lawyers from being forced to share before prosecutors details of their conversations with clients, the Justice Department can get an exception if it can convince a judge that a lawyer’s services were used by a client in furtherance of a crime — a principle known as the “crime-fraud” exception.

Ex-President Trump is in Florida, waiting out the possibility of criminal charges in New York — as Manhattan braces for protests that could follow an indictment.

March 21, 2023

Howell ruled in the Justice Department’s favor shortly before stepping aside as chief judge, according to a person familiar with the matter. That ruling was appealed, and court records show the dispute before the federal appeals panel concerned an order that Howell issued on Friday.

The three-judge panel that issued Wednesday’s decision include Cornelia Pillard, an appointee of former President Obama, and J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, both appointees of President Biden.

A lawyer for Corcoran did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday, and a lawyer for Trump declined to comment on the sealed order.

Corcoran is regarded as relevant to the investigation in part because last year he drafted a statement to the Justice Department asserting that a “diligent search” for classified documents had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago in response to a subpoena. Months later, though, FBI agents searched the home with a warrant and found roughly 100 additional documents with classified markings.


The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump or anyone in his orbit obstructed its efforts to recover all of the classified documents, which included top-secret material, from his home.