Bernie Kerik, the former NYPD commissioner who collected evidence of supposed election fraud for the Trump campaign in 2020, has cut a deal to turn over records to Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith as part of the investigation into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Smith previously sought the documents, which are related to Kerik’s role as the former president’s on-the-ground investigator looking into eventually disproven conspiracy theories about ballot stuffing and fake voters. However, Kerik’s legal team had refused to turn those documents over, citing attorney-client privilege stemming from the fact that Kerik was working on behalf of Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
But on Friday, Trump himself waived that privilege and agreed to have the documents turned over, according to Kerik’s defense lawyer, Timothy Parlatore.
Smith is expected to now receive nearly 2,000 pages of material describing how Kerik looked into bogus fraud allegations. The records could prove pivotal for federal prosecutors, who are seeking evidence of Trump’s decision-making process as he relentlessly voiced baseless accusations that the 2020 election was “rigged,” even though top advisers had told him otherwise.
For months, the DOJ special counsel has been investigating Trump’s multifaceted scheme to stay in the White House after losing that election, which culminated in his MAGA loyalists violently attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Just last week, Trump revealed that investigators had sent him a so-called “target” letter indicating he may soon be indicted.
While the former president has spent considerable time in recent weeks posting screeds directed at Smith—calling him “deranged” for seeking a possible indictment—lawyers thus far have battled with prosecutors over evidence behind closed doors.
Trump’s decision to greenlight handing over these records represents something of a gamble. But Parlatore said the evidence could actually prove exculpatory, as it shows the Trump campaign actually did hear allegations of fraud—and engaged in what could be argued was a good faith attempt to investigate the claims by interviewing witnesses.
Notably, none of these efforts resulted in any actual proof, which is why Trump’s lawsuits contesting the election results ultimately went nowhere. Federal judges across the country tossed them out and even reprimanded lawyers for filing empty claims. Giuliani and his privately run investigation played a key role in spreading conspiracy theories, and his involvement could land him in trouble in Georgia.
The House Jan. 6 Committee, which spent more than a year investigating Trump’s attempted coup and produced an extensive final report documenting how close the country came to putting at risk its functioning democracy, interviewed Kerik during its probe. However, congressional investigators only received a portion of the documents in question, because that attorney-client privilege was still in place.
“From the time he received a subpoena from the January 6 Committee, Mr. Kerik has believed that full disclosure is the best policy so that the public can understand how extensive the legal team’s efforts to investigate election fraud were,” Parlatore told The Daily Beast on Monday.
The formal agreement to waive privilege on the documents in question was hinted at in a court filing made Monday afternoon in a case involving Georgia poll workers who say their lives were ruined when Giuliani falsely accused them of mishandling ballots. Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, sued Giuliani for defamation in 2021 and demanded similar records as part of their lawsuit. But Giuliani and his hired investigator, Kerik, refused to turn them over for the same reason they held them back from Smith, citing the Trump campaign’s attorney-client privilege.
U.S. District Beryl A. Howell already punished Giuliani, ordering him to pay $89,172 in lawyers fees for wasting time. And she was poised to do the same to Kerik. But Kerik defense lawyer Parlatore cut a last-minute deal with the Trump legal team to make those documents available to Freeman and Moss. That deal, in turn, makes them available for Smith’s investigators as well.
On Monday, the women’s lawyers alerted the judge that they reached an agreement and started receiving a batch of documents on Sunday. Kerik has additionally agreed to sit down and answer those lawyers’ questions sometime in the next month, which could also benefit Smith’s investigation.
The sudden turn also means that Kerik has agreed to sit down with the feds for a formal interview sometime in mid-August, Kerik said.
That timing could indicate that Smith isn’t as close to indicting Trump as the former president has recently suggested, but Smith could also conduct the Kerik interview after an indictment. Investigators typically wrap up interviews and collect a full picture of evidence before asking a grand jury to vote on criminal charges, but Smith could always make an exception if he’s actually intent on indicting Trump imminently over his efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election.
Parlatore was uniquely positioned to make the deal to turn over these documents. He was on Trump’s legal defense team handling various special counsel investigations until he left in May.
Kerik also has his own connection with Trump. Following the United States invasion of Iraq, the ex-NYPD boss briefly served as a top minister in Iraq’s transitional government. His nomination to lead the newly established Department of Homeland Security fell apart, when investigators began discovering a long history of corruption. He received a four-year prison sentence for tax fraud and lying to White House officials. But years later, he became a conservative Fox News commentator and in 2020 was granted clemency by then-President Trump.