By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Evan Corcoran, a lawyer for Donald Trump, appeared on Friday before a federal grand jury looking into Trump's retention of classified documents following the end of his presidency, testifying only after a U.S. judge rejected Corcoran's claim that doing so would violate attorney-client privilege.
Corcoran's 3-1/2 hour appearance behind closed doors was another signal that two criminal investigations into Trump led by Special Counsel Jack Smith - one centered on the documents and the other on efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election defeat - are gathering pace.
Corcoran and his attorney Michael Levy entered the federal courthouse in Washington and went to the third floor, where the grand jury typically meets. Corcoran exited the courthouse without speaking to journalists.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who directed Corcoran to appear, separately ordered former Trump aides including ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to another grand jury examining the election-related issues including the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack by Trump supporters, ABC News reported.
Attorneys for Trump did not respond to a request for comment on the court order compelling Meadows and other former aides to testify.
Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November. His investigations are among a growing number of legal worries for Trump, who in November launched a campaign seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The Manhattan district attorney's office is considering criminal charges arising from hush money paid to a porn star in 2016, a local prosecutor in Georgia is looking into whether Trump unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in that state and he is facing a defamation civil lawsuit by a former magazine columnist who accused him of rape.
Trump in a social media post concerning the hush money case spoke of potential "death & destruction" if he faces criminal charges. Trump last Saturday had incorrectly stated he would be arrested this past Tuesday.
NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE
U.S. media outlets reported ahead of Corcoran's testimony that Smith's office had sought court approval to compel Corcoran's testimony, citing evidence that Trump intentionally mislead his attorneys about his retention of classified materials at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Corcoran sought to block enforcement of a subpoena, citing attorney-client privilege, a legal doctrine under which confidential communications between lawyers and their clients are kept private.
ABC reported that Howell in a sealed ruling found that Smith's team had made a sufficient showing that Trump may have deceived his attorneys in furtherance of a crime, and determined that attorney-client privilege could not be used to shield Corcoran from complying with the grand jury subpoena. That order was upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington.
Corcoran and Christina Bobb, another attorney representing Trump, were both involved in talks with the Justice Department last year ahead of the FBI's Aug. 8 Mar-a-Lago search that turned up classified documents retained after he left the White House in January 2021.
In May 2022, Trump received a grand jury subpoena ordering him to turn over any records with classified markings, and officials from the Justice Department and FBI met with Trump's attorneys in June to enforce the subpoena. At that June meeting, the lawyers handed over a single envelope containing 38 documents with classified markings.
In a certification drafted by Corcoran and signed by Bobb, they attested they had thoroughly searched the premises and found no other records bearing classification markings. That claim later proved to be false, as the FBI discovered about 100 additional classified records among some 13,000 government documents in its Aug. 8 search.
Corcoran is one of multiple Trump attorneys who have been summoned to appear before the grand jury. Tim Parlatore, another attorney, voluntarily testified before the same grand jury in December to explain the steps Trump's legal team took to comply with the May 2022 subpoena.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham and Doina Chiacu)