Lawyer M. Evan Corcoran’s recorded notes have emerged as a key factor in the investigation of classified documents. These notes, documenting his legal work for former President Donald J. Trump, are now in the possession of prosecutors, causing concern among some of Trump’s former aides. The detailed recording, made during a reflective drive on Corcoran’s iPhone, provides important information that can shape the outcome of the inquiry.
The recorded account covers a significant period in the investigation of the documents, starting with Corcoran’s initial meeting with Trump in May of the previous year. Their discussion revolved around a subpoena issued by the Justice Department, demanding the return of all classified materials in Trump’s possession. It also includes details about Corcoran’s meticulous search at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club, and residence in Florida, in response to the subpoena. This search aimed to locate any relevant records before the prosecutors’ visit to enforce the subpoena and collect sensitive material.
Normally, private communications between lawyers and clients are protected from government investigators. However, a federal judge, Beryl A. Howell, made a rare decision to hand over the transcribed version of Corcoran’s recorded recollections to special counsel Jack Smith’s office, leading the investigation of the documents. This broke the attorney-client privilege due to the prosecutors’ belief that Trump may have misled Corcoran about the location of the subpoenaed documents.
The importance of Corcoran’s notes cannot be overstated. They are likely to play a central role as Smith and his team near the end of their investigation and consider potential charges against Trump. Moreover, if a criminal case goes to trial, the notes may serve as compelling evidence.
The level of detail in the recording has raised concerns among Trump’s close aides. They worry that it contains direct quotes from sensitive conversations, increasing the significance of its contents. Despite attempts to contact Corcoran for comment, he has not responded to messages.
In response to the release of the recording, Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump, emphasized the importance of attorney-client privilege as a fundamental principle of the legal system. He accused the Justice Department of trying to deny Trump this basic right, asserting that the notes reflect Corcoran’s opinions and thoughts rather than those of the client himself. Cheung also stated that Trump had cooperated when Justice Department officials visited the property in the previous year.
The recorded account provides details of a crucial meeting between Corcoran and Trump at Mar-a-Lago. The notes describe how Trump discussed complying with the subpoena, and Corcoran confirmed that compliance was necessary. This exchange could be valuable to prosecutors gathering evidence of potential obstruction of the subpoena process and interference with the government’s broader efforts to retrieve sensitive records from Trump’s possession.
Additionally, the recording outlines Corcoran’s search of a storage room at Mar-a-Lago to fulfill the subpoena’s request for documents. It reveals that several employees informed Corcoran that everything he needed could be found in the basement storage room. Consequently, Corcoran handed over three dozen documents discovered during the search to Justice Department officials. In a letter accompanying the documents, he stated that a thorough search had found no additional material. Importantly, the notes do not indicate any direction from Trump or others to search areas other than the storage room.
As events unfolded, it became clear that the employees who directed Corcoran to the storage room were mistaken. When F.B.I. agents executed a search warrant in August, classified documents were found not only in the basement but also in Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago. The investigation has since focused on individuals involved in moving boxes in and out of the storage room, particularly Walt Nauta, an aide to Trump, and Carlos Deoliveira, a maintenance worker at Mar-a-Lago.
The investigative team has also looked into potential efforts to interfere with the acquisition of security camera footage from Mar-a-Lago. This footage could provide insights into the storage of documents and those who accessed them. Corcoran’s notes shed light on Nauta’s involvement in the search, revealing that Nauta unlocked the storage room door and provided the tape to seal the classified documents before handing them over to prosecutors.
The notes also mention a meeting between Corcoran, another lawyer for Trump named Christina Bobb, and Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterespionage section at the Justice Department’s national security division. This meeting took place at Mar-a-Lago on June 3 of the previous year, during which Corcoran and Bobb turned over the discovered documents and conveyed a letter stating that, to the best of their knowledge, no further documents remained at Mar-a-Lago. The notes contain references to Trump’s involvement during Bratt’s visit.
Judge Howell’s memorandum compels Corcoran to testify before a grand jury and produce his notes, considering the lawyer as collateral damage in Trump’s efforts to impede investigators and National Archives officials in their attempts to retrieve the documents. The judge’s memorandum suggests that Trump’s earlier actions and misdirection regarding the return of records served as a rehearsal for the subsequent subpoena.
The revelations in Corcoran’s recorded recollections have the potential to influence the outcome of the classified documents inquiry. As the investigation progresses, these notes provide crucial evidence for prosecutors and may have significant implications for Trump’s legal future.