Former President Donald TrumpAttorneys are fighting in secret court to stop a federal grand jury from gathering information from an ever-expanding group of Trump aides about his effort to overturn the 2020 election. people who spoke briefly about the matter told CNN.
The high-stakes legal dispute – including the appearance of three attorneys to represent Trump in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Thursday afternoon – is the most powerful step the former President has taken to assert special characteristics. the right of law enforcement and attorney-clients to prevent certain witnesses from sharing information in the surrounding criminal investigation events January 6, 2021.
The court’s fight for the privilege, which has not been previously reported and is being sealed, is a turning point to legal troubles following Trump’s presidency.
How the fight is resolved could determine whether prosecutors can break down the firewall Trump has tried to keep around his conversations in the West Wing and with the attorneys he talks to as he seeks to find a way. overturned the 2020 election and they worked to keep him in office.
This dispute came to light when former Trump White House adviser and attorney Eric Herschmann received a jury subpoena looking for testimony, the people said briefly.
Other former senior Trump White House officials, including former White House adviser Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin, have appeared before the grand jury in recent weeks, after negotiating the topics. specifically that they would decline to answer questions because of Trump’s request for privileges.
Herschmann himself was not present in court to fight the subpoena. Instead, Trump’s lawyers are asking a judge to recognize the former President’s claims of privilege and right to confidentiality surrounding his dealings. Herschmann grand jury testimony has been adjourned.
It remains unclear whether prosecutors want to use the information for possible cases against Trump or others.
Trump’s lawyers had expected the Justice Department to eventually seek a judge’s order to force more testimony from White House witnesses, CNN previously reported.
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Under grand jury secrecy, the legal dispute is sealed, with no public documents showing the state of the game.
The Justice Department has faced a legal challenge along these lines for months, CNN previously reported.
In addition to Cipollone and Philbin, former vice presidential aides Greg Jacob and Marc Short appeared before a grand jury in a DC court and declined to answer some questions because of Trump’s claims of executive privilege, CNN reported. previously believed.
On Thursday afternoon, Evan Corcoran, Tim Parlatore and John Rowley, who worked together on behalf of Trump in the January 6 investigation, left court with a law clerk.
Parlatore told reporters he was there “on behalf of a client” but would not provide further details. Other attorneys declined to comment.
Trump’s legal team’s widespread push for privilege has caused disagreement among their attorneys over legal strategy, people briefed on the matter said.
Herschmann received a grand jury subpoena for testimony and related documents January 6 weeks ago. Before the court date, however, he was annoyed by what he saw as vague instructions from Trump’s lawyers about not sharing information, who spoke briefly on the matter.
Herschmann urged Trump’s lawyers to provide him with more detailed guidance on which topics to assert privilege, according to emails first reviewed and reported by CNN. New York Times.
“A written directive from President Trump without a court order will not suffice. I do not understand your statement that the judge will decide the matter,” Herschmann wrote. He then raised concerns about the DOJ seeking to coerce his testimony if he refused to testify on certain questions.
Herschmann previously testified before the House committee about what he saw at the White House around January 6.
The outspoken attorney expressed concern that the Trump team’s approach potentially puts him at risk of contempt by the jury, according to people briefed on the matter. He backed down when Trump’s attorneys sent him a letter with instructions that he cites executive or attorney-client privileges for the grand jury.
Other former Trump aides have expressed similar frustration at the ambiguity of Trump’s claim of privilege, people briefed on the matter told CNN.
Attorney-client privilege requests can be remedied for a number of reasons, including if any information is shared outside of the attorney-client pipeline and if the communication involves to possible misconduct. In the January 6 situation, a federal judge in California found incoming and outgoing email exchanges John EastmanTrump’s campaign attorneys, who would not be protected by this confidentiality, provided records to House investigators and allowed the Justice Department to access those and other similar communications.
Executive privilege is a more difficult pursuit for investigators, though not insurmountable. The Justice Department won access to Nixon’s Watergate tapes for a federal grand jury in the 1970s for Supreme Court ruled that the criminal investigation needed documentation. But the courts have yet to determine exactly where to draw the lines in this investigation, or for a former President who may be trying to keep the advice he was given while leading the way. country.
This dispute is separate from the privilege protections Trump attempted to claim in a separate investigation into his handling of federal records and national security information after his presidency. That investigation prompted the FBI to seize classified documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resortand a judge acts as a special master is currently working through more than 10,000 unclassified records to determine if Trump can block them from investigators.