A D.C. Circuit appeals court set an “unprecedented” schedule Tuesday night surrounding Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago classified documents case, requiring answers from Trump attorneys by midnight and a reply from the U.S. Department of Justice just hours later, at 6 a.m.
The move concerns a request from Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice to investigate Trump’s potential mishandling of classified documents, to have Trump attorney Evan Corcoran appear before a grand jury.
Smith found “compelling preliminary evidence” that the former president knowingly misled his own legal team about holding onto the records after leaving office, sources told ABC News on Tuesday.
Smith’s reported findings were referenced in a sealed filing penned Friday by a former top federal judge, the sources said. U.S. Judge Beryl Howell, who stepped down as the D.C. district court’s chief judge on the same day, reportedly wrote that Smith’s prosecutors had made a “prima facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations.”
Smith make the request despite Corcoran’s attorney-client privileges—which are sometimes wiped under cases of crime or fraud.
On Friday, Judge Howell ruled in favor of wiping said privileges, forcing Corcoran to appear before a federal grand jury.
In her filing, Howell wrote that what Smith’s office had found was enough to render the attorney-client privileges previously invoked by two of Trump’s attorneys void, but did not constitute grounds to seek charges against the former president.
However, on Tuesday night, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed Judge Howell’s ruling, demanding a rapid-fire series of filings, according to reports from Politico.
Three judges in the latest ruling “asked Trump’s attorneys to specify the precise set of documents at issue by midnight, and for Smith’s team to respond by 6 a.m. Wednesday to the Trump team’s demand for a longer stay of Howell’s ruling,” according to Politico.
According to The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell, citing sources, Trump lawyer Jim Trusty is working on the appeal for the three appeals judges: Cornelia Pillard, J. Michelle Childs, and Florence Pan — all of whom are Democratic appointees.
A Trump campaign statement blasted the situation, claiming “prosecutors only attack lawyers when they have no case whatsoever… These leaks are happening because there is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump.”
Politico’s Kyle Cheney reported, however, that the order made it “clear” that the documents are at the center of the case “and the extraordinary light-speed with which the appeals court is moving suggests there will be action on this at the federal courthouse *tomorrow.*”
According to MSNBC commentator Tristan Snell, the move is “completely unheard of.” He wrote on Twitter: “Normally that process would take MONTHS. Instead they’re making the lawyers submit everything in HOURS.”
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