Criminal Justice

Notes from Trump's lawyer cited as evidence of obstruction in classified documents case

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The indictment against former President Donald Trump is shown June 9. Photo by Jon Elswick/The Associated Press.

Notes from a lawyer for former President Donald Trump may constitute some of the most damning obstruction evidence against Trump in the classified documents case against him.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and Slate are among the publications with stories on the lawyer’s notes, as revealed in the indictment unsealed Friday.

M. Evan Corcoran “will be the principal obstruction of justice witness” against Trump—“and a powerful one at that,” according to the Slate article by Robert Katzberg, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer.

Corcoran is a former partner at Wiley Rein who asserted that his taped notes were protected by attorney-client privilege. But U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of the District of Columbia agreed that the notes could be turned over to prosecutors after special counsel Jack Smith invoked the crime-fraud exception.

That exception allows disclosure of evidence containing attorney work-product or confidential attorney-client communications when a client consults an attorney for advice that will serve in furtherance of a crime.

According to the New York Times, it “became abruptly clear” after release of the indictment that its description of “Attorney 1” was referring to Corcoran. The Washington Post came to the same conclusion, based on information from an anonymous source.

The indictment alleges that Trump suggested that Attorney 1 falsely represent that Trump didn’t have subpoenaed boxes and suggested that Attorney 1 hide or destroy subpoenaed documents. Trump also allegedly directed that boxes be removed from a storage room at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, so that Attorney 1 would not find all the classified documents in a June 2, 2022, search.

Trump met with Attorney 1 on May 23, 2022, to discuss a May 11 subpoena. According to the indictment (beginning at page 21), Attorney 1 memorialized these statements that Trump allegedly made, in sum and substance:

  • “I don’t want anybody looking, I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t, I don’t want you looking through my boxes.”
  • “Well what if we, what happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them?”
  • “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”
  • “Well look isn’t it better if there are no documents?”
  • [A lawyer for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] did a great job. … He was the one who deleted all of her emails, the 30,000 emails, because they basically dealt with her scheduling and her going to the gym and her having beauty appointments. And he was great. And he, so she didn’t get in any trouble because he said that he was the one who deleted them.

After the May 23 meeting but before Attorney 1’s search, Trump valet and aide Waltine Nauta allegedly moved 64 boxes from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago and returned only 30 boxes.

Attorney 1 located 38 documents with classification markings after his search of the storage room June 2, 2022. He put them in a folder and used clear duct tape to seal it. Attorney 1 then met with Trump, and they discussed whether Attorney 1 should take the documents to his hotel room and put them in a safe.

“During that conversation,” the indictment says, “Trump made a plucking motion,” as memorialized by Attorney 1.

According to Attorney 1’s notes, Trump “made a funny motion as though—well OK, why don’t you take them with you to your hotel room, and if there’s anything really bad in there, like, you know, pluck it out. And that was the motion that he made. He didn’t say that.”

Attorney 1 contacted the U.S. Department of Justice that evening and asked them to meet him at Mar-a-Lago the next day, June 3, 2022, so that he could turn over the documents. Before that June 3 meeting, several of Trump’s boxes were loaded onto a plane that flew Trump and his family north to the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for the summer, the indictment says.

See also: “How Rule 29 motion could save Trump in classified documents case; what are other possibilities?” “Did pending Supreme Court case affect special counsel’s decision to move Trump grand jury to Florida?”

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