In the recent investigation concerning former President Donald Trump’s actions following the 2020 election, numerous witnesses invoked attorney-client privilege to withhold information, as revealed in a recent court document from special counsel Jack Smith’s office.
Smith’s team has requested Judge Tanya Chutkan to mandate Trump’s side to disclose by December if Trump will argue during the trial that he acted on the advice of his attorneys post the 2020 election results. Although a majority of lawyers close to Trump had advised against pursuing mass election fraud allegations, Trump opted to consult with a group of attorneys, humorously described by former Attorney General William Barr.
Trump and his team have consistently hinted at leveraging the “advice of counsel” as a cornerstone of his defense in the trial, according to the special counsel.
Should Trump choose this defense route, Smith’s office argues for access to more communications between Trump and his attorneys. If the former president invokes attorney-client privilege in the case, he would need to surrender the same privilege for all associated communications. This would enable federal prosecutors to dig deeper and might necessitate more litigation.
In an effort to prevent potential trial delays slated for March 2024, Smith’s office emphasizes the need for formal notification. Judge Chutkan has granted Trump a window until Oct. 20 for a response, and the government can reply by Oct. 25.
The document reveals that a considerable number of witnesses, around 25, utilized attorney-client privilege to shield information from the probe. This encompassed a broad spectrum of individuals, ranging from co-conspirators, former campaign workers, the campaign itself, and even a family member of the defendant.
The indictment issued earlier in August sheds light on the internal perceptions within Trump’s circle post the 2020 elections. Trump himself admitted that some of the legal strategies and people involved, like Sidney Powell, seemed “unhinged”. One of the senior campaign advisors expressed skepticism about the election fraud claims, highlighting their unsuccessful legal battles.
Jenna Ellis, a former Trump attorney, had previously referred to this group of lawyers as an “elite strike force” during a November 2020 press event at the Republican National Committee.
Both Smith’s and Trump’s legal teams are scheduled for a court appearance soon, discussing the possibility of a partial gag order that might restrict specific public statements by Trump, who is a significant GOP contender for the 2024 presidency.