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Report: Trump Aides Told Evan Corcoran Not to Search for Docs in Trump’s Office

Although it's unclear who gave the order, some legal experts suggest it couldn't have come from anybody else but Trump.

Evan Corcoran, attorney for former President Donald Trump, leaves the the United States District Court House on July 18, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

A new report from The Guardian provides more details on how one of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers was thwarted from locating classified documents at Mar-a-Lago to ensure their return to the federal government.

In the spring of 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ), acting on information it received from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) earlier that year, issued a subpoena to Trump ordering him to return all documents still in his possession that were marked as classified. Evan Corcoran, on Trump’s behalf, headed the effort to find those documents at the former president’s Palm Beach, Florida, residence, searching a storage locker there, where he found dozens of such materials.

According to reporting from The Guardian, however, Corcoran was told by Trump’s aides to avoid going to the former president’s personal office at Mar-a-Lago, and was assured that no documents would be found there. Corcoran complied and subsequently drafted an affidavit telling the DOJ that all classified documents had been returned. (A different Trump lawyer, Christina Bobb, signed the affidavit, at the direction of Corcoran.)

After the department received additional evidence suggesting Trump had more classified materials hidden there, the FBI conducted a full search of Mar-a-Lago in August, without allowing Trump’s lawyers to help that time around, which resulted in the recovery of more than 100 classified documents — including some in his office.

Over 300 classified documents were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in all of 2022.

Corcoran has shared this series of events with special counsel Jack Smith and the grand jury investigating the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. The information was shared with The Guardian by two sources with knowledge of Corcoran’s account.

Corcoran’s record of events “suggests he was materially misled,” The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reported, which could be evidence of obstruction in the case. Other reports this past month by various news agencies suggest Trump himself is in deep legal troubles, and will likely be indicted when the investigation is over.

It was revealed earlier in May that Trump had two employees move boxes from a storage locker to his office the day before the DOJ served out its subpoena in June of last year. Trump had aides carry out a “dress rehearsal” for moving documents on the property as well.

The DOJ also has evidence that Trump shared classified documents with other people, a violation of the Espionage Act. Corcoran has also told the grand jury that he had explained to Trump why the former president could not keep classified government documents after the subpoena was served.

Other information reported this month doesn’t bode well for Trump’s legal future, including that NARA has 16 pieces of evidence showing that Trump and his aides were well-aware that he had not actually declassified documents, dismantling a key defense Trump has tested in public statements.

With this latest development, it’s unclear which aides told Corcoran not to search Trump’s office, or whether the order came from Trump directly.

“Hard to imagine a lawyer being ‘waved off’ by anyone but the client,” tweeted former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, citing The Guardian’s reporting.

Others said Corcoran himself might be in trouble. “What lawyer worth their salt would have agreed to this wave off, knowing that the lawyers would be signing off on the sufficiency of the search?” asked national security lawyer Brian P. Moss.

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