(Reuters) – Evan Corcoran, a lawyer hired by Donald Trump to fend off a federal investigation into his handling of sensitive documents, is now a central figure in the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal case against the former president.
The shift from lawyer to potential witness in the case is a sharp turn for Corcoran. The former Republican congressman’s son is described by former colleagues as soft-spoken and diligent, known for his steady presence in the courtroom and an affinity for fly fishing.
Corcoran, 58, was not charged in the indictment unsealed on Friday. It presents him as a key Trump confidant who was deceived by the former president as he allegedly sought to stymie Justice Department efforts to recover classified documents he kept at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after leaving the White House in January 2021.
The 37-count indictment said Trump suggested to Corcoran that he falsely tell the Justice Department that he did not have any sensitive documents to turn over after a May 2022 subpoena.
“Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?” Trump asked, according to an account by “Trump Attorney 1” detailed in the indictment.
The indictment does not identify Corcoran by name, but a source familiar with the situation told Reuters that he is the lawyer listed as “Trump Attorney 1” in the document.
In an unusual move, Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor, was forced to testify and turn over detailed notes to a grand jury weighing evidence in the Trump documents probe after a U.S. judge ruled he could not shield his communications with Trump.
Communications between lawyers and clients are normally protected under the legal doctrine of attorney-client privilege.
However, a U.S. judge in March ruled that U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith could overcome that privilege, determining that Corcoran’s advice may have been used to further or cover up a crime, media reports said.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and claims, without offering evidence, that all documents at the resort had been declassified. He has accused prosecutors of being biased against him.
An attorney for Corcoran declined to comment.
CORCORAN ‘UNFLAPPABLE AND EVEN-KEELED’
“Unflappable and even-keeled are the words that come to mind,” said Douglas Gansler, a former Democratic Maryland attorney general who worked with Corcoran early in his legal career. He described Corcoran as someone who “holds his cards close to the vest.”
A former assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., Corcoran moved to private practice in 2000. He handled business cases and kept a relatively low profile until former Trump White House adviser and conservative firebrand Steve Bannon hired him in 2021 to defend against contempt of Congress charges.
Bannon was found guilty last year for defying a subpoena from the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He is appealing that conviction.
Trump, who has a history of cycling through attorneys, turned to Corcoran in 2022 after the FBI began investigating boxes containing classified information that Trump’s aides had turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration.
Corcoran helped Trump respond to a May 2022 subpoena for all remaining classified documents in his possession. He greeted a Justice Department official at Mar-a-Lago the next month to hand over a folder containing 38 documents with classified markings, prosecutors said in court filings.
The indictment against Trump said the former president directed his personal aide Walt Nauta to remove documents from a Mar-a-Lago storage room to prevent Corcoran from finding them during his search.
Nauta was also charged in the indictment with helping to conceal documents.
Corcoran drafted a certification, signed by another Trump lawyer, attesting that all records with classified markings had been returned to the government – a claim later proven false when the FBI seized about 100 additional classified records during an August 2022 search.
Prosecutors, quoting Corcoran’s account, allege that during a meeting with Trump after Corcoran collected the 38 documents to turn over to the government, Trump made a “plucking motion,” implying that “if there’s anything really bad in there, like, you know, pluck it out.”
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