U.S.

Exclusive: Trump’s secret court fight to stop grand jury from getting information from his inner circle

The high-stakes legal dispute — which includes the appearance of three attorneys representing Trump at the Washington, DC federal courthouse on Thursday afternoon — is the most aggressive move the former president has taken to take executive and attorney-client privileges. to put things in order. to prevent some witnesses from sharing information in the criminal investigation events around January 6, 2021.

The previously unreported and unsealed privilege lawsuit is a turning point for Trump’s post-presidency legal troubles.

How the battle is resolved may determine whether prosecutors can breach the firewall Trump has tried to keep around his talks in the West Wing and with lawyers he spoke to when he wanted to undo the 2020 election and they were working to get him to stop. help hold the presidency.

This dispute came to light when Eric Herschmann, a former Trump White House adviser and attorney, received a grand jury subpoena to obtain a testimony, the informed people said.

Other former senior Trump White House officials, including former White House adviser Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin, appeared before the grand jury in recent weeks after negotiating specific topics they declined to answer because of Trump’s privilege claims.

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Herschmann himself is not in court to fight the subpoena. Instead, Trump’s lawyers are asking a judge to recognize the former president’s privilege claims and the right to confidentiality of his dealings. Herschmann’s grand jury testimony has been adjourned.

It is still unknown whether prosecutors want to use the information for possible cases against Trump or others.

Trump’s attorneys had expected the Justice Department to eventually request a court order to coerce additional testimony from White House witnesses, CNN previously reported.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Fight play under seal

Under the grand jury’s secrecy rules, the legal dispute is sealed, with no public documents to prove the state of affairs.

The Justice Department has been advocating 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 have appeared before the grand jury at the DC courthouse and declined to answer some questions because of Trump’s executive privilege claims, CNN previously reported.

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On Thursday afternoon, Evan Corcoran, Tim Parlatore and John Rowley, who were working together to represent Trump in the Jan. 6 investigation, left the courthouse along with an attorney.

Parlatore told reporters he “represented a client” there, but declined to provide further details. The other lawyers declined to comment.

Pressure from Trump’s legal team to enforce privileges in general has been the subject of disagreement among his lawyers over legal strategy, people briefed on the matter said.

Herschmann received a grand jury subpoena 6 weeks ago for testimony and documents related to January. But before his court date, he was annoyed by what he saw as vague guidelines from Trump lawyers not to share information, people briefed on the matter say.

Herschmann urged Trump lawyers to give him more detailed instructions on which topics to take precedence, according to emails reviewed by CNN and first reported by The New York Times.

“A letter from President Trump without a court order would not suffice. I do not understand your statement that the Chief Justice will decide the matter,” Herschmann wrote. He then expressed concern about DOJ seeking to enforce his testimony if he refused to testify on certain questions.

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Herschmann previously testified before the House Committee about what he saw in the White House around January 6.

The outspoken attorney expressed concern that the Trump team’s approach might put him at risk for grand jury contempt, according to people briefed on the matter. He pushed back when Trump’s attorneys sent him a letter instructing him to mention executive or attorney-client privileges to the grand jury.

Other former Trump associates have expressed similar frustration at the vagueness of the Trump privilege claim, people informed about it tell CNN.

Claims of attorney-client privilege can be overcome for a number of reasons, including if information is shared outside of the attorney-client pipeline and if the communication relates to possible misconduct. In the January 6 situation, a federal judge in California has already determined that email exchanges to and from Trump’s election attorney John Eastman are not covered by this confidentiality, providing the data to home investigators and giving the Department of Justice access to those and other similar exchanges.
Special Master of Mar-a-Lago Orders Trump Team to Purge All Claims From FBI "planting" to support.  proof
Executive privilege is a more difficult pursuit for researchers, though not impossible to overcome. The Justice Department gained access to Nixon’s Watergate tapes before a federal grand jury in the 1970s because of a Supreme Court ruling that the material was necessary for the criminal investigation. But courts haven’t pinpointed exactly where the lines would be drawn in this investigation, or for a former president who may be trying to keep the secret advice he was given while running the country.
The dispute is separate from the protection of privileges Trump has sought to claim in the separate investigation into the handling of federal data and national security information after his presidency. That investigation led the FBI to seize classified documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and a judge acting as special master is now going through the more than 10,000 unclassified records to determine whether Trump can use them. block for researchers.

CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Andrew Millman contributed to this report.

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