NYT’s Pre-DOJ Meeting Attempted Rebuttal

According to multiple outlets, the Trump’s lawyers met with DOJ the other day in part to lodge claims about prosecutorial abuses.

Robert Costa, who first broke this meeting, reported that Trump’s lawyers complained that Jack Smith “overstepped” in the way he dealt with attorney-client privilege.

The NYT didn’t describe what their complaint at the meeting was, but did describe a more detailed version of the letter, asking for a meeting with Merrick Garland, that Trump released as a PR stunt. It talked about strong-arming defense attorneys.

The letter to Mr. Garland was an abbreviated version of a longer one that contained a more detailed account of the concerns by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, according to two people familiar with the matter. Those included the ways in which grand juries have been used in the special counsel’s investigations and attempts to strong-arm defense lawyers involved in the cases, the people said.

Hugo Lowell described that Trump’s lawyers raised concerns about prosecutorial misconduct and mentioned a particular incident that Trump’s lawyers had been complaining about for weeks.

Trump’s lawyers made a general case as to why Trump should not be charged in the Mar-a-Lago documents case and suggested that some prosecutors working under special counsel Jack Smith engaged in what they considered prosecutorial misconduct, the people said.

The exact allegations are not clear but Trump’s lawyers for weeks have complained privately that Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and espionage section at the justice department, once sought to induce a witness into confirming something they declined to, one of the people said. [my emphasis]

That’s why I’m interested in this story the NYT published last week, which provided dramatic details of a recording Evan Corcoran made memorializing the advice he had given Trump.

In complete sentences and a narrative tone that sounded as if it had been ripped from a novel, Mr. Corcoran recounted in detail a nearly monthlong period of the documents investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.

CNN first reported on how detailed these notes were on May 22.

One source described Corcoran’s notes as “overly detailed.” Another source close to Trump’s legal team said that some of them were surprised about the level of detail in Corcoran’s notes. That source said multiple sets of notes were handed over to prosecutors and that they were significantly redacted to shield Corcoran’s legal opinions in the notes from investigators.

On May 30, more than a week after CNN’s original scoop, in a story that also discussed the notes, Hugo Lowell reported that Evan Corcoran had been “waved off” searching anywhere besides the storage room.

Donald Trump’s lawyer tasked with searching for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after the justice department issued a subpoena told associates that he was waved off from searching the former president’s office, where the FBI later found the most sensitive materials anywhere on the property.

The lawyer, Evan Corcoran, recounted that several Trump aides had told him to search the storage room because that was where all the materials that had been brought from the White House at the end of Trump’s presidency ended up being deposited.


Corcoran also memorialized how he told Trump he could not retain any classified documents at Mar-a-Lago when Trump asked what he was allowed to keep, as well as when he took breaks during the search by walking out to the pool deck nearby, and therefore leaving the storage room unattended. [my emphasis]

Then, on June 3, the weekend before this DOJ meeting (though presumably after it was scheduled), NYT published the dramatization of Corcoran’s notes, what with the description of his full sentences.

Here’s how they rationalize not giving credit to CNN or Lowell for their earlier coverage.

Mr. Corcoran’s notes, which have not been previously described in such detail, will likely play a central role as Mr. Smith and his team move toward concluding their investigation and turn to the question of whether to bring charges against Mr. Trump.

That the NYT didn’t credit another reporter is par the course. What’s novel, here, is how clearly they (or, presumably, their sources) seem to be attempting to rebut Lowell’s report that Corcoran was waved off.

The notes in the recording do not suggest that Mr. Corcoran was waved away from searching anywhere other than the storage room, the people familiar with them said. But they also indicate that no one at Mar-a-Lago — including Mr. Trump — spoke up to tell him that he should look elsewhere. [my emphasis]

Only, NYT didn’t rebut Lowell’s reporting. He was reporting on what Corcoran told other people, not what he recorded in his voice memo. Given how thoroughly Jack Smith has blanketed Mar-a-Lago with subpoenas, those other people are likely to have been subpoenaed as well.

Obtaining witness testimony that conflicts with a written record is the kind of thing that might lead a prosecutor like Jay Bratt to challenge a witness — especially if he were trying to preserve the sterling value of a lawyer testifying against his client. If a prosecutor has witnesses on the record regarding such a topic, it’d be a perfectly justifiable challenge.

Corcoran is not the only attorney witness whose testimony seems to differ from what he later told others. Tim Parlatore, after all, seems to believe that Boris Ephsteyn was less cooperative on searches than he told the grand jury.

If I were a Trump lawyer, I’d worry more about how such discrepancies might put me at risk of being charged right along with Trump than claiming it’s a sign of prosecutorial abuse.

40 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Poor Trump lawyers.

    I sense that their complaints about prosecutorial abuse and overreach aren’t about what Smith did *earlier*. After all, Smith had to make his case to a federal judge to pierce attorney-client privilege. No, I think these lawyers are expressing their fears about what Smith will do *later* — perhaps coming after them.

    Why would anyone expect that the crime-frauding of the Trump legal team has ended?

    • Badger Robert says:

      Ms. Wheeler is on the story now. Smith must be close if Trump’s attorneys are whining about these kind of things.
      I am no expert on attorney ethics. But it seems to me that events have reached the point at which the difference involved in defending a client who has committed offenses in the past, and consulting with a client whose criminal conduct is still happening, has become relevant. There are better attorneys participating here who can help sort out that distinction.
      As always, thanks to Ms. Wheeler for her thoroughness.

    • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

      A federal judge already ruled that the crime-fraud exception applied to a plethora of Drumpf lawyers. Complaining to the DoJ about something a federal judge agreed met the crime-fraud exception is useless. It’s already happened. The issue is really a matter for the courts, including in any potential pre-trial rulings and potential appeals.

        • bmaz says:

          It is still stupid beyond belief. It renders comments unsearchable. Simply childish and useless bullshit. PLEASE make it stop.

        • BrokenPromises says:

          Two as in Trump’s paternal grandfather alleged to own a whore house is what I recall reading.

        • wasD4v1d says:

          In historical linguistics, esp. Grimm’s Law, T and D are interchangeable, as are P and F. Etymologically these are the same name, although the Trump forebears did it after immigration from Germany in order to sound less German. (It didn’t make them sufficiently American, though.)

          This bit of trivia courtesy of an index card I found at the bottom of my useless information file.

        • Rayne says:

          It’s searchable in spite of what bmaz says. But stop using it because it annoys the fuck out of him and chews up our bandwidth.

  2. waban1966 says:

    There is lots of discussion about the venue issue.

    Question about another possible venue, from a nonexpert. We have seen the photos of some boxes going from Mar-a-Lago to Bedminster. Being loaded onto Trump’s plane. And educated guesses that those boxes contained some of the NDI (or classified for that separate statute).

    I suspect that Newark is the closest airport that can handle Trump’s 757. Given that DC and N.D. Va. may be tough for venue, does that open up D.N.J. as a venue for documents that would otherwise require S.D. Fla. venue, about which people seem to worry? Including conspiracy based on the overt act of putting boxes on the plane headed to NJ? So could it include at least some of the Mar-a-Lago personnel who transported documents to the plane and loaded them?

    Also, IIRC some of the boxes may then have gone back to Mar-A-Lago.

    Related question: what process applies if Trump is currently storing any NDI documents on the plane? Obviously Smith would have to have probable cause to believe that’s where some NDI documents are. But it’s another logical place for Trump to put them, the kind of thing that Trump would (wrongly) think of as a safe place.

    • Spank Flaps says:

      Trump’s 757 had an engine fault last year, and had to have a refurb (which his followers paid for). It was out of action for a few months.
      He wouldn’t involve aircraft service engineers in the crime.
      He owns 2 planes and 2 choppers, and sometimes hires others.

    • AirportCat says:

      Morristown Municipal Airport (MMU) can accommodate a B757. Trump used to fly in there frequently during his Presidency. It is quite close to Bedminster.

    • Waban1966 says:

      Thanks for corrections on the plane and airport “All roads lead to New Jersey.”

      Now I see “Venue Twitter” is talking about the breadth of overt-acts conspiracy venue.

      Follow-up question. Flying documents on the plane is absolutely clearly an overt act, compared to intangible stuff in DC. Assume that Trump is a flight risk, but that Jack Smith can ask for some version of home confinement with approved campaign travel. Jack Smith could strand Trump in Florida for the summer if Trump insists on SD Fla.

      When we all know Trump wants to be in NJ. Where “home confinement plus campaigning” would be fine since he could golf. What about filing in NJ, seeing if Trump would cut a deal for venue there, not yet knowing what judge he would get in SD Fla? Cannon loves him, but Middlebrooks would be a very big risk for Trump. Jack Smith can consent for the transfer to SD Fla if Trump insists, but threaten and seek relatively strict modified home confinement (allowing campaigning), based on Trump having disclosed NDI to foreigners (assuming such facts exist).

      Too hot in Florida for Trump to play golf. Try to take advantage of the non legal factors important to Trump.

      • bmaz says:

        There is absolutely nothing “intangible” about DC. That is where the initial conspiracy started and the locus of the victim on every possible count, the United States Government. NJ is ridiculous. You don’t “cut deals” on venue, it either exists or it does not. You do not really know much criminal trial law, do you?

        • Waban1966 says:

          Thanks. I do not know much about criminal procedure, which is why my first question said nonexpert. FWIW I do have a lot of experience dealing with the legal scheming of businesspeople like trump who are hypertransactional when in legal trouble. So I throw the ideas out there to see what you experts think. I was riffing off of the serious concerns many who know more are throwing out regarding DC. I also saw some discussion by MTW about how Manafort had the choice but did not waive venue to consolidate cases. So I asked myself why might Trump decide to do that, outside pure legal considerations, since he doesn’t always follow his competent lawyers.

          Happy to be told I’m wrong.

  3. David F. Snyder says:

    Haberman is writing her next book in NYT articles.. And her editor lets her get away with that shit?

  4. RipNoLonger says:

    Somewhat OT but Timothy Snyder does address how to report on certain events (in this case the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka damn in Ukraine) without muddling the issues with both-siderism. Something that the NYT should perhaps study.


    “The pursuit of objectivity does not mean treating every event as a coin flip, a fifty-fifty chance between two different public statements. Objectivity demands thinking about all the objects — physical objects, physical placement of people — that must be in the story, as well as all of the settings — contemporary and historical — that a reader would need in order to come away from the story with greater understanding.”

    • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

      I’m a former managing editor a weekly paper. Objectivity is a fake standard. I certainly wasn’t taught that way at the NYU School of Journalism. Basically, BALANCE has been replaced by “objectivity”. The two are not synonymous.

  5. Vicks says:

    Meadows would have insight into Trump’s intent.
    If he’s cooperating, he would be useful in pointing to any pattern(s) in the recovered documents that would support specific accusations of what Trump’s goals were when he took the documents- perhaps even provide details that could assist in building a list of important documents that remain missing.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        ‘Responding’ would be my guess, since Meadows is very aligned with MAGA and will want that voting bloc in future runs. He has a slightly better chance than Pence if he can plausibly claim he was forced to talk. Because of his prior history, I can’t see Meadows ratting out Defendant-1 on ideological grounds.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          Honestly, I can’t see Meadows running for anything from here out. He is not a leader, he is a Uriah Heep dogsbody yesman. I think he is satisfied with proximity to power, not actually wielding it in a way that would make him publicly accountable to anyone, like the voters.

          Plus there’s that whole messy illegal voting registration thing he will need to deal with.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Normally, I would agree but if it is anything we should prepare for in these abby-normal times it is that any GOP type will emphasize their shameless superpower like their banana republic models. Even Pence and Christie are running. Meadows is ambitious, and he will run for something down the road.

        • posaune says:

          Ooooh, I have to write that down:
          Uriah Heep dogsbody yesman.

          Son-of-posaune will love it! (loves Dickens)

      • Vicks says:

        For what’s it’s worth, this is Meadow’s lawyer responding yesterday
        In a statement to the Times, Terwilliger said: “Without commenting on whether or not Mr. Meadows has testified before the grand jury or in any other proceeding, Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so.”
        Taylor Budowich “Head of MAGA Inc” on Twitter after testifying yesterday
        “Today, in what can only be described as a bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to “get” Trump, I fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front a federal grand jury and I answered every question honestly.
        America has become a sick and broken nation—a decline led by Joe Biden and power hungry Democrats. I will not be intimidated by this weaponization of government. For me, the need to unite our nation and make America great again has never been more clear than it is today.
        That starts with re-electing President Donald J. Trump, a purpose I will not be deterred from pursuing.”

        I’m assuming Budowhich’s lawyers are being paid by Trump’s Save America PAC, but wasn’t there a story of Meadows being funneled quite a bit of that Trump doner money as well?

        • LordAvebury says:

          Interesting choice of words:
          “Without commenting on whether or not Mr. Meadows has testified before the grand jury or in any other proceeding, Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so.”
          Presumably reserving the right to tell falsehoods in all other situations….

        • Lockett says:

          Trump should never see inside of the whitehouse ever again, but instead the inside of a prison cell, for gods sake he tried to overturn an election hes the cause of an insurrection hes a bloody menace I for one would like to see inside of his ex wife’s coffin to see what’s hidden inside it and if possible a thorough examination of her body cos I wouldn’t put it past trump to have knocked her off, and while we,re looking into things Jared and ivanka made millions off the Saudis yet trump can only say Biden did dodgy dealings well clean up trump before looking at bidens

          [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Thanks. /~Rayne]

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Adding: From this article –

        “It is understood that the former North Carolina congressman will plead guilty to several federal charges as part of a deal for which he has already received limited immunity in exchange for his testimony.”

  6. Terrapin says:

    Trump’s lawyers complaining of prosecutorial conduct are merely following the orders of their client. A man that is outraged that prosecutors cannot see that the law does not apply to someone as special and exalted as him. That he can say or do whatever he pleases whenever he pleases.

    • Vicks says:

      Once again, Trump is sowing the seeds of doubt and conspiracy to keep the faithful too outraged & occupied to process this shit through the logical parts of their brains.

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