WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court is weighing whether the Justice Department can force one of Donald Trump’s lawyers to testify in a criminal investigation about classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, which the former president opposes, according to court records and news reports.
US District Judge Beryl Howell ruled Friday that federal prosecutors could compel Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to testify about whether Trump misled him about the documents, which were seized under subpoena in June and during an FBI search in August, according to ABC News and Politico, based on anonymous sources.
But Trump argues Corcoran shouldn’t have to testify because his communications with Trump should remain confidential under attorney-client privilege, according to ABC and Politico.
The privilege doesn’t cover discussions of criminal activity, which prosecutors have alleged.
Here’s what we know about the case:
Trump dismisses reports as ‘fake news’
Trump’s presidential campaign called the ABC News report “fake news” and Howell a “Never Trump” judge. “These leaks are happening because there is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump,” the statement said.
The case is sealed so the decision isn’t public. But after Trump appealed, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals froze Howell’s decision Tuesday and set a series of rapid-fire deadlines to resolve the case, which are public, even if the documents aren’t.
Who will decide the case?
The appeals court set a midnight Tuesday deadline for Trump’s lawyers to file their arguments and they submitted eight pages. Earlier Trump motions to freeze the case totaled 6,167 words and 5,198 words.
Special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors had a deadline of 6 am Wednesday to file arguments and submitted 6,455 words.
A three-judge panel – Judges Cornelia Pillard, Michelle Childs and Florence Pan – will decide the case, with no public deadline set. Pillard was appointed by Barack Obama. Childs and Pan were appointed by President Joe Biden.
What is the case about?
Smith is investigating Trump’s role in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, and for about 300 classified documents stored at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House. Trump returned some of the records in response to a request from the National Archives and Records Administration, but others were seized under subpoena and during the search.
The FBI searched Mar-a-Lago for evidence of obstruction of justice and potential violations of the Espionage Act, based on a warrant from a federal magistrate.
Corcoran’s testimony could be significant because he was central to Trump’s legal team when federal authorities subpoenaed and searched for the records. Another Trump lawyer, Christina Bobb, signed a document in June certifying all classified records had been returned even though more were found in August.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump lawyer could be forced to testify about classified docs: reports