UNITED STATES: According to legal experts, two key Trump lawyers could be incriminated as witnesses or targets in a special FBI probe against the former President’s unauthorized possession of “classified” and “top secret” files at his luxurious Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran face the potential fear of being trapped in a controversial matter regarding their boss. Incidentally, the two lawyers cooperated with the FBI during the government’s months-long effort to retrieve boxes of presidential records and classified documents from Trump’s Palm Beach resort.
An interaction on June 3 has fanned the situation. According to a court filing submitted by the Justice Department on Tuesday, the two lawyers claimed that they had complied with a grand jury subpoena that subsequently proved false.
The same day, the justice department’s chief of counterintelligence, Jay Bratt, and three FBI agents proceeded towards Mar-a-Lago and recovered documents that had been subpoenaed, the filing said. The two lawyers, Bobb and Corcoran, turned over a taped, Redweld envelope of classified materials.
But before Bratt departed the scene, Bobb produced and signed a letter certifying that all and any documents responsive to the subpoena were being turned over. At the same time, Corcoran suggested that the government-sought records were confined to a locked storage room.
Bobb and Corcoran fell into a pickle as the justice department developed evidence through multiple sources that additional classified documents had remained at the Mar-a-Lago estate, which was true when the FBI searched the property again two months later.
In its filing on Wednesday night, Trump’s lawyers publicly denounced the probe as a “standard give-and-take” between a former president and the National Archives and Records Administration over presidential records. It said that the department had unjustly revealed, on a public platform, the visuals of the classified documents taken from Trump’s home.
As per the court filings and search warrant, the probe continues to uncover any concealed details about the former President’s involvement in hiding other crucial information that would have a strong bearing on national security. The justice department is also keeping an eye out on the cooperation of lawyers, staff members and officials close to the Trump organization to assess the degree of evidence obstruction.
The justice department’s account of the 3 June episode, which it sees as an attempt to hide important documents from law enforcement agencies, has turned against Bobb and Corcoran’s favour. The two can now be framed as witnesses or targets in the entire investigation.
However, the details of how the justice department will approach and conduct an investigation are complex.
The reasons behind the slip-up remain open-ended – it is unclear if the two lawyers were intent on protecting their boss by obstructing evidence or were misled by Trump and made false representations.
To establish the exact circumstances surrounding Bobb’s confidence in signing the certification and Corcoran’s confidence in his statements, legal experts said, the justice department would probably have to subpoena both of the lawyers for communications and testimony.
Such a turn of events would infringe on attorney-client confidentiality since the information the FBI is looking for will likely incriminate Trump in several wrongdoings and reveal protected information between Trump and his lawyers.
The privilege exists to protect the rights of defendants who might have committed an offence since they need to be able to speak candidly with their lawyers about what happened without the fear that prosecutors could use their discussions against them at a trial.
The two lawyers might have to speak against their client by breaching attorney-client privilege, as they need to speak candidly with law enforcement officials.
The protection can be removed through the so-called crime-fraud exception. However, suppose there was a crime-fraud exception in Trump’s case. In that case, his lawyers could still invoke their fifth amendment right against self-incrimination if they had knowingly misled the government on his behalf.
Ultimately the decision boils down to attorney general Merrick Garland’s approval to move ahead with an extraordinary prosecution for obstruction against the President.
If Garland chooses to take that step, then law enforcement officials might have to find ways to compel Bobb and Corcoran’s testimony to reveal whether Trump truly obstructed evidence, legal experts have suggested.
However, suppose Garland does not choose that step. In that case, even though FBI investigators might ask for Bobb and Corcoran’s testimonies anyway, they are unlikely to secure useful evidence unless it also litigates the privilege issues in court.
People close to the former President did not believe that either of the two lawyers would be wanted by the law or the courts to reveal sensitive information against Trump.