Former President Donald Trump’s legal team has unsuccessfully sought emergency relief from a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to prevent some of his closest advisers from testifying against him, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. to file in a new court.
Trump’s team asked an appeals court Monday night to throw out a lower court ruling forcing several of his top advisers to answer questions from a grand jury investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to subvert the 2020 presidential election. Legal safeguards surrounding his presidency will protect some of their testimony.
An appeals court rejected his request on Tuesday, leaving Trump facing another legal setback just before he entered a Manhattan courtroom to face criminal charges in a separate trial.
The swift decision could bring Trump’s advisers, including Meadows, before a federal grand jury in Washington by prosecutors in the coming days. A court would have to intervene in Trump’s favor to block their subpoena.
Overnight, a three-judge panel of the appeals court — Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Greg Katsas — demanded a response from the Justice Department regarding Trump’s request. The Justice Department responded two hours later.
An appeal on larger legal questions surrounding executive privilege assertions may still proceed before the appeals court, but the action surrounding Trump’s emergency request will now determine whether to comply with Justice Department subpoenas for witnesses and a lower court’s ruling against Trump.
Trump’s team is unlikely to ask the Supreme Court for help, a source told CNN.
The lawsuit is sealed and Trump and the Justice Department are not named in the filings. The Biden administration has repeatedly refused to assert presidential executive privilege regarding Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, when similar issues have come up in previous situations.
Other witnesses who could be affected by the ruling include Trump’s former director of national intelligence John Radcliffe, former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, former Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli and several Trump White House advisers such as Stephen Miller and Don Scavino. CNN has corroborated some of the witnesses who previously testified to the grand jury, but may have refused to answer some questions at Trump’s direction.
As part of a broader criminal investigation into Trump’s post-election activities in 2020 and the January 6, 2021 riot, Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team is seeking grand jury testimony from these senior Trump aides.
Last week, Trump went to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the underlying ruling in the case from DC District Court Judge Beryl Howell in March. But on Monday, two of Trump’s lawyers, Evan Corcoran and James Trusty, met with Chief Judge James Bosberg, another District Court judge who now oversees grand jury proceedings, to request a stay of the case, the source said. He denied their request, prompting the Trump team to go to the appeals court seeking emergency relief, according to the source.
Howell’s order to answer questions from Meadows and others was the last of his tenure as chief judge of the D.C. District Court and added to a pile of losses for Trump as he tried to block federal prosecutors from obtaining testimony. January 6, 2021 and Mar-a-Lago criminal investigations. Separately, Boasberg recently ruled that former Vice President Mike Pence should testify at the same hearing.
Trump has repeatedly lost executive privilege claims in court, and the Justice Department has been able to overcome presidential secrecy because of grand jury investigation requirements. Although Trump’s team has criticized the prosecutors’ actions as overreaching, the court’s decisions are in line with what pre-Watergate criminal investigations were able to accomplish.
This story has been updated with additional information.