Departing chief judge on Washington DC federal court makes last-minute decision to hand over notes made by Trump’s ‘document scandal’ lawyer Evan Corcoran to Justice Department
A Washington DC judge overseeing multiple investigations into former U.S. president Donald Trump has stepped down from her role and handed Trump’s lawyer’s notes over to the Justice Department.
Beryl Howell on Friday concluded her seven-year tenure as chief judge with the potentially significant move handing notes made by Trump’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, to the Department.
The Daily Beast termed the final blow as a ‘parting gift’ to Jack Smith, the special prosecutor appointed by the Justice Department to investigate both Trump’s handling of the Mar-a-Lago classified documents scandal, and his actions on January 6.
One analyst told the outlet that Howell’s move could be because she was extremely concerned about the content of Corcoran’s notes, or that she worried they would not be handed over if requested.
Beryl Howell on Friday stepped down from her role as chief judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, at the end of her seven-year term. She remains on the bench, but she has now been replaced as chief judge
‘She’s taken all the legal relief out of their hands,’ said David Cross, an experienced federal litigator at the Washington firm Morrison & Foerster who is not involved in the Trump case.
‘If she orders them to do it, they can take up an appeal on an emergency basis.
‘She may have been concerned from what she read in the documents. She may have not trusted them to comply with an order.’
In a separate ruling, Howell on Friday ordered that Corcoran return to testify again before a grand jury.
He testified in January, but is believed to have used the excuse of client-attorney privilege as a reason for not answering many questions.
Howell on Friday ruled that the government had met the threshold for a special provision of the law known as the crime-fraud exception, which allows prosecutors to lift the shield of attorney-client privilege when they have reason to believe that legal advice or legal services have been used in furthering a crime.
She will remain on the court, but no is no longer chief judge.
That position is being taken up by James Boasberg, who was also appointed by President Barack Obama.
The chief judge has sole discretion over sealed federal grand jury proceedings.
Evan Corcoran, one of Trump’s lawyers. Howell on Friday handed Corcoran’s notes over to the Justice Department
Jack Smith was in November appointed a special prosecutor by the Justice Department, and tasked with looking into Trump’s handling of classified documents and his actions around January 6. He may find Howell’s documents extremely useful
James Boasberg is taking over from Howell as chief judge of the DC court
That means Boasberg will immediately take over responsibility for handling certain issues that may arise in the special counsel investigations involving Trump.
Boasberg told NBC News he would not comment on any grand jury proceedings, but instead praised his predecessor.
He said the court was fortunate to have had Howell as its leader ‘in this very fraught period.’
He added: ‘She’s led the court in a terrific way through COVID and dislocations, and she also has maintained a very cohesive court not driven by partisan divides.’