Speed Reads

Crime-Fraud Exception

Prosecutors reportedly seek to compel Trump lawyer's testimony by citing crimes in classified papers case

Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald Trump's mishandling of classified documents are seeking to compel one of his lawyers to testify about his work with Trump by suggesting those legal services were used in a crime, The New York Times and other news organizations reported Tuesday night. 

The lawyer, Evan Corcoran, previously invoked attorney-client privilege repeatedly when asked certain questions before a federal grand jury, The Associated Press reports. Prosecutors working with Special Counsel Jack Smith have asked a federal judge to revoke that privilege in this case through the crime-fraud exception, suggesting they believe they have evidence Trump and maybe his allies committed a crime. The federal judge, Beryl Howell, will consider the motion in a closed-door hearing in Washington, D.C.

The Justice Department has already said Trump may have violated the law by keeping classified defense documents after leaving office and obstructing the effort by federal agents to get them back. It isn't clear if prosecutors, in invoking the crime-fraud exception, suspect criminal misconduct by Corcoran and Trump, Trump and other associates, or Trump alone, the Times reports

Along with compelling Corcoran's testimony about Trump's handling of top secret government papers, prosecutors also want him to answer questions about one of Trump's top aides, ABC News reports. Smith's team has been asking a lot of questions about Trump associate Boris Epshteyn, who is deeply involved in Trump's legal defense in the several investigations, per the Times.

"It remains unclear whether Trump or anyone else will be charged, though the move is a notably aggressive act by Smith's team," AP reports. "Smith is separately investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election and recently subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence as part of that probe." Pence is trying to avoid that testimony through a separation-of-powers argument because he was acting as president of the Senate, not U.S. vice president, on Jan. 6.