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Why prosecutors have Trump lawyer’s notes in classified docs case

As Donald Trump rails against his classified documents scandal, prosecutors now have their hands on his lawyer's behind-the-scenes notes.


UPDATE (June 8, 2023 8:45 p.m. E.T.): A federal grand jury in Florida indicted Donald Trump on Thursday on seven charges, including conspiracy to obstruct, NBC News reported.

One of the benefits of Donald Trump maintaining an active social media presence is that there’s no great mystery what he's thinking about. When it comes to his anxieties and preoccupations, the former president doesn’t exactly keep his cards close to his chest.

With this in mind, the Republican used his platform last night to declare, “Reports are the Marxist Special Prosecutor, DOJ, & FBI, want to Indict me on the BOXES HOAX. ... I HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG.”

Trump’s unease is understandable. NBC News reported over the weekend, for example, the federal grand jury that’s been hearing evidence in the classified documents case is expected to meet again this week, despite indications that the grand jury process had slowed in recent weeks. That news coincides with a series of reports last week about a behind-the-scenes recording of the former president talking about a sensitive document he says he took — and which his lawyers can’t find.

And then, of course, there was this New York Times report from the weekend.

Turning on his iPhone one day last year, the lawyer M. Evan Corcoran recorded his reflections about a high-profile new job: representing former President Donald J. Trump in an investigation into his handling of classified documents. In complete sentences and a narrative tone that sounded as if it had been ripped from a novel, Mr. Corcoran recounted in detail a nearly monthlong period of the documents investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.

I can appreciate why Corcoran’s name may be unfamiliar to much of the public — I’m reminded of the phrase “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard” — but the lawyer is quickly becoming one of the most important figures in the former president’s classified documents scandal.

Revisiting our earlier coverage, it was exactly one year ago this week when a leading Justice Department official went to Mar-a-Lago with a few FBI agents in the hopes of retrieving documents Trump improperly took and refused to voluntarily give back.

As part of that meeting, one of the Republican’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, signed a certification statement, indicating that the former president had fully complied with a grand jury subpoena and no longer had any classified materials at his glorified country club. That statement, we now know, wasn’t true: As the FBI discovered during a search two months later, Trump still had plenty of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

In the fall, Bobb decided it was time to pass the buck: NBC News reported in October that the lawyer — who had to hire her own lawyer — told investigators that she did not draft the statement she signed. Rather, Bobb said it was another Trump attorney, Corcoran, who both drafted the statement and told her to sign it.

A legal fight soon followed over attorney-client privilege: Special council Jack Smith’s office wanted Corcoran to testify and share information related to his work for Trump, while the lawyer claimed his work must be shielded. Trump’s defense attorney lost that fight: A federal appeals court ruled in March that Corcoran had to cooperate with the investigation because of the “crime-fraud exception”: Attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply when legal services might’ve been used in furthering a crime.

It’s against this backdrop that the Times published its latest report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, indicating that the special counsel’s office now has Corcoran’s documents, spanning a key period of time from last spring and summer.

“The level of detail in [Corcoran’s] recording is said to have angered and unnerved close aides to Mr. Trump, who are worried it contains direct quotes from sensitive conversations,” the article added.

The Times went on to note that Corcoran’s private notes “will likely play a central role as Mr. Smith and his team move toward concluding their investigation and turn to the question of whether to bring charges against Mr. Trump. They could also show up as evidence in a courtroom if a criminal case is ultimately filed and goes to trial.”

Is it any wonder why the former president is throwing online tantrums?

This post revises our related earlier coverage.