Since early January, several of Donald Trump’s close advisers, including some of his own lawyers, have met with the former president to deliver him the same stark warning. In at least three meetings this year, according to two sources familiar with the matter, legal and political counselors to Trump have urged him to dump Evan Corcoran, one of the ex-president’s top attorneys in the federal probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents.
Some of the former president’s lawyers have explicitly told Trump that, based on information they have privately reviewed, they believe the Department of Justice has a strong case against Corcoran, arguing charges — including potentially for obstruction of justice — are “very likely,” the sources said. These advisers have argued that if the Justice Department indeed does come for Corcoran, it’s imperative for Trump to distance himself to avoid being dragged into possible further legal jeopardy by his own attorney.
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Trump, the sources say, sounds “receptive” to their perspective. However, as of mid-February, it appeared he wasn’t as receptive as they had hoped: Corcoran is still on Trump’s legal team.
Corcoran and representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s requests for comment.
During a grand jury appearance in January, prosecutors reportedly asked Corcoran questions about events prior to last year’s FBI raid of Trump’s Florida residence of Mar-a-Lago, according to CNN. Corcoran drafted, and fellow Trump attorney Christina Bobb signed, a statement attesting to the government that a “diligent search” had been conducted of the Florida residence in May of 2022 — a statement which the subsequent discovery of classified material during the FBI search has been undermined . Corcoran reportedly declined to answer some questions based on his belief that they were protected attorney-client privilege.
But prosecutors have since filed a motion asking a judge in the case to force him to testify based on the crime-fraud exception, which can override attorney-client privilege in cases where an attorney may have assisted a client in the perpetration of a crime.
Several of Trump’s close advisers who’ve recently spoken to him about this have argued to the ex-president that any potential wrongdoing on this matter could, somehow, be pinned entirely on Corcoran, and not Trump himself.
However, since last year, as the various investigations and criminal probes into Trump have swelled, members of the former president’s inner sanctum have kept a rotating roster of their top potential patsies or fall guys. This has included prominent Trump associates and lieutenants including Mark Meadows and John Eastman. Now, Corcoran has found himself at the center of this MAGA parlor game of protecting Trump at all costs — even though all of these people are getting in trouble only for doing exactly what Trump told them to do, or for taking action on Trump’s behalf. Furthermore, Corcoran’s defenders point to the fact that Trump’s teams of lawyers are typically rife with backbiting, in-fighting, and at times power struggles, including on the Mar-a-Lago documents case, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
“These types of motions [requesting that a judge nullify attorney-client privilege based on the crime-fraud exception] would only be served upon the attorneys who’ve appeared in the case: Jim Trusty, John Rowley, Evan Corcoran, Tim Parlatore, and Lindsey Halligan; the five of them would be the only people who have access to these documents,” says a person familiar with the internal proceedings of Trump’s legal team. “Any source other than that would not be speaking from a position of access and would likely be speaking based on their own personal agenda, rather than actual facts. [Furthermore], when the DOJ targets lawyers, it is often being done from a position of weakness in their underlying case, as a method of undermining the integrity of the defendant’s legal team. Removal of Evan Corcoran … would serve the purpose of giving the DOJ exactly what it wanted.”
Trump himself is already facing an obstruction investigation in the classified documents case. In the August 2022 warrant that permitted the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago, prosecutors wrote that they believed there was a probable cause they would find “evidence of obstruction” during the search. When Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed special counsel Jack Smith to investigate the classified documents issue in November, he explicitly authorized Smith to look into potential obstruction by Trump.
When classified documents were found at the homes of President Biden and former Vice President Pence, Garland appointed a separate special counsel, Robert Hur, to investigate the Biden documents. Unlike the Trump investigation, Garland did not explicitly authorize Hurry to investigate — and the Justice Department has not suggested it suspects — obstruction.
Corcoran, a former assistant US Attorney, joined Trump’s legal team in April 2022 after the FBI launched an investigation into 15 boxes of classified documents missing from the National Archives. He represented Steve Bannon when federal prosecutors charged the former Trump adviser with contempt of Congress.
Trump reportedly hired Corcoran with “no vetting” in an abrupt decision made after an adviser introduced the two during an April 2022 phone call, according to The Washington Post.
For some former Trump associates, watching yet another attorney face scrutiny from the Justice Department for actions on behalf of the former president is eerily reminiscent. “If Evan Corcoran doesn’t recognize that Donald cares for no one but himself and is more than willing to let him take the fall for his dirty deeds, he would be a fool,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and fixer, tells Rolling Stone. “Personally, I don’t see Evan as such.”
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