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They demand documentation from Trump on classified papers retained at his residence

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As if Donald Trump wasn’t already in enough legal trouble, in a sealed order issued Wednesday a federal appeals court ordered a lawyer of his to turn over to prosecutors documents about the retention of classified records at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s residence in Florida.

The ruling marks a significant victory for the Justice Department, which for months has focused not only on the search and seizure of classified documents on Trump’s property, but also on why he and his representatives resisted demands to return them. to the government.

The decision suggests the court has sided with prosecutors, who have argued behind closed doors that Trump was using his legal representation to commit a crime.

The order was reflected in a brief online notice from a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is sealed. No name of either party in the dispute is mentioned, the magazine said. Time.

But the details appear to correspond to a secret fight before a judge by a lower court over whether Trump’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, could be forced to turn over documents or give grand jury testimony in the special counsel’s investigation of the Justice Department about whether the former president mishandled top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago.

Corcoran’s figure is considered relevant to the investigation, in part because he wrote a statement to the Justice Department last year stating that a “diligent search” of classified documents had been conducted in response to a subpoena.

But that claim turned out to be false. Weeks later, FBI agents searched the house with a search warrant and found approximately 100 additional documents with classified marks.

Another Trump attorney, Christina Bobb, told investigators last fall that Corcoran had drafted the letter and asked her to sign it in her role as designated custodian of Trump’s records.

A Justice Department investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith and his team is examining whether Trump or someone in his orbit obstructed their efforts to recover all classified documents, which included top-secret material.

No charges have yet been filed. The investigation is one of multiple legal threats facing Trump, including investigations in Atlanta and Washington into his efforts to undo the election result, and another by a Grand Jury in New York into hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy. Daniels. The New York case appears to be nearing completion and moving towards an indictment.

Last week Beryl Howell, chief judge of the Washington DC District Court, ordered Corcoran to answer additional questions before a grand jury. Weeks earlier, the attorney had appeared before the federal jury investigating the Mar-a-Lago affair, but invoked attorney-client privilege to avoid answering certain questions.

Although attorney-client privilege prevents lawyers from being forced to share details of their client conversations with prosecutors, the Justice Department can get around the point if it can convince a judge that the services of a lawyer were used to promote a crime, a principle known in law as the “crime-fraud” exception.

Howell ruled in favor of the Justice Department shortly before stepping down as chief judge on Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter, but spoke to the AP news agency on condition of anonymity. That ruling was later appealed. Court records show that the dispute before the federal appeals panel concerned an order issued last Friday by Howell.

The three-judge panel that issued the decision includes Cornelia Pillard, a former President Barack Obama appointee, and J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, both President Joe Biden appointees. The order came just hours after the court imposed strict deadlines on both sides to file briefs on the case.

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