When the U.S. Court of Appeals underwent a startlingly swift process of upholding a lower court ruling that Donald Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran must testify against him, it raised questions about just how close to the finish line Special Counsel Jack Smith is. Now we’re getting some more insight.
Corcoran is now set to testify to a federal grand jury tomorrow, and he’s not planning to invoke the Fifth Amendment, per a New York Times report this evening. This tells us some things. Multiple major news outlets reported yesterday that Trump wasn’t planning to even bother appealing to the Supreme Court, due to the certainty he’d lose, and the likelihood that he’d lose within just a few days. Trump could still change his mind and file a last second Supreme Court appeal. But Trump clearly hasn’t filed any such appeal yet, given that Corcoran’s testimony is still set for tomorrow.
The most interesting thing this tells us is that Corcoran is not a criminal target of this investigation after all. You can only invoke the Fifth to avoid testifying against yourself, not against others. With Corcoran not invoking the Fifth on anything, it means he’s been made aware that all he has to do is give up Trump and he’s off the hook. This tracks with recent reporting that after the Feds came calling, Trump lied to Corcoran about the classified documents so that Corcoran would then unwittingly lie to the Feds. This is textbook obstruction of justice on Trump’s part.
This eliminates once and for all any concern that the DOJ could somehow end up just indicting Trump’s attorneys in the classified documents scandal, and not Trump himself. It’s now crystal clear that Trump himself is the target of this criminal investigation. Corcoran is the key witness whose testimony nails Trump for felony obstruction of justice. Moreover, Corcoran’s testimony will be supported by the documentation he made of his conversations with Trump, which the DOJ now has and will also present to the grand jury.
The New York Times is also reporting that another Trump attorney named Jennifer Little has been ordered to testify to the grand jury this week. But the Times doesn’t specify whether Little’s testimony is still under appeal or whether she’s on track to testify this week as ordered.
This would give the DOJ two inside witnesses nailing Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, both of whom happen to be his own attorneys. Federal prosecutors typically prefer to line up multiple inside witnesses against a criminal target, so trial juries don’t have to merely take one witness’ word for it.
The testimony of Corcoran tomorrow, and the testimony of Little whenever it’s supposed to happen, could end up being the finish line for the obstruction of justice charges against Trump. But there’s still a lot we don’t know. Is Jack Smith looking solely at obstruction of justice charges against Trump in the classified documents case, or is he also looking at Espionage Act charges? If there are espionage charges, are those also ready to go? If the espionage charges are not ready to go, will Smith indict Trump now on obstruction and bring a superseding indictment later?
We don’t know any of this yet. But we do know that the DOJ has its star witness testifying to the grand jury against Donald Trump tomorrow, nailing Trump for felony obstruction of justice. And after that we’re basically on DOJ indictment watch. As we’re seeing in Manhattan, indictment watch can have a number of twists and turns. But given that the DOJ was widely expected to be the third jurisdiction to indict Trump, it’s a remarkable turn of events to learn that we could instead be on DOJ indictment watch as soon as potentially next week.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report