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Justice Department convinces federal judge Trump used his attorney in furtherance of a crime in classified docs probe


The Justice Department has convinced a federal judge that former President Donald Trump used one of his defense attorneys in furtherance of a crime or fraud related to the existence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

The finding – part of a major ruling Friday from Judge Beryl Howell of the DC District Court – makes clear for the first time that the judge determined Trump may have committed a crime, and that the Justice Department has information to back up that decision.

The evidence would likely be significant in the obstruction probe being pursued by special counsel Jack Smith’s team. It also underscores how critical the testimony of Trump’s defense lawyers would be in the federal grand jury investigation.

ABC News first reported the development.

Trump has not been charged in the case, but is still under investigation by the grand jury in Washington. Prosecutors had relied on surveillance videos in arguing their case to Howell, one source said.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Howell, in her sealed ruling, determined prosecutors were able to show Trump attorney Evan Corcoran’s legal services were used in furtherance of a crime, so attorney-client privilege didn’t apply, sources told CNN.

The Justice Department is still seeking testimony from Corcoran, after he cited attorney-client privilege, as well as from another Trump lawyer, Jennifer Little, CNN has learned.

CNN has reached out to Corcoran and Little for comment.

On Tuesday, Trump’s team sought emergency intervention from the appeals court. Three judges from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals have moved fast to respond, as they are still considering whether to put the decision from Howell on hold.

Judges Nina Pillard, Michelle Childs and Florence Pan of the DC Circuit have demanded more information and arguments by early Wednesday morning, setting a deadline for Trump and his lawyers by midnight and for prosecutors to respond by 6 a.m.

The extremely tight deadlines – a turnaround essentially unheard of in this court – indicates the seriousness of the matter.

The DC Circuit judges also mention documents involved in the dispute, asking that Trump’s side “specify” them. The court order doesn’t explain any further what’s happened with documents. But Corcoran also was ordered to hand over a number of documents, including handwritten notes and notes transcribed of a verbal conversation.

Trump sent a statement to his supporters Tuesday night criticizing ABC and calling the details “illegally leaked false allegations.”

This headline and story have been updated with additional reporting.

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