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Trump lawyers fight to keep seized Cohen files out of investigators' hands Trump lawyers fight to keep seized Cohen files out of investigators' hands
(about 1 hour later)
Attorneys for Donald Trump and his legal fixer Michael Cohen are due back in court on Monday to fight a plan by Trump’s justice department to start looking through records from their decade-long working relationship.Attorneys for Donald Trump and his legal fixer Michael Cohen are due back in court on Monday to fight a plan by Trump’s justice department to start looking through records from their decade-long working relationship.
Federal prosecutors in New York want a special “taint team” of government lawyers to begin reviewing files seized from Cohen during FBI raids last week, so they can decide which are protected by attorney-client privilege and which may be used to prosecute Cohen.Federal prosecutors in New York want a special “taint team” of government lawyers to begin reviewing files seized from Cohen during FBI raids last week, so they can decide which are protected by attorney-client privilege and which may be used to prosecute Cohen.
Cohen is under criminal investigation, prosecutors confirmed last Friday. He may face charges from a grand jury operating separately from one being used by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, for his Trump-Russia investigation.Cohen is under criminal investigation, prosecutors confirmed last Friday. He may face charges from a grand jury operating separately from one being used by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, for his Trump-Russia investigation.
Cohen is “being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings”, Thomas McKay, an assistant US attorney, said in a court filing. Cohen has long described himself as an attorney for Trump but has for years filled a more wide-ranging role as a general troubleshooter.Cohen is “being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings”, Thomas McKay, an assistant US attorney, said in a court filing. Cohen has long described himself as an attorney for Trump but has for years filled a more wide-ranging role as a general troubleshooter.
On Monday morning, lawyers for Cohen confirmed in a letter to district Judge Kimba Wood that he had continued to represent Trump in private practice since 2017.
The letter, written in response to a court order requesting the names of all Cohen’s legal clients, added that Cohen had maintained nine other private clients in that time period, including former GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Broidy resigned as Republican National Committee deputy chair last week after it was revealed Cohen had negotiated a $1.6m payoff to a former Playboy Playmate who said Broidy had impregnated her.
The letter declined to name the other clients, suggesting Cohen had provided seven with “strategic advice and business consulting”. The final client, like Trump and Broidy, had received “more direct legal advice or dispute resolution” but had requested not to be named in public.
Further adding to the drama, Stephanie Clifford, a pornographic film actor known as Stormy Daniels who alleges that she had a sexual encounter with Trump and was paid $130,000 by Cohen to keep quiet, intends to attend Monday’s hearing, according to her lawyer.Further adding to the drama, Stephanie Clifford, a pornographic film actor known as Stormy Daniels who alleges that she had a sexual encounter with Trump and was paid $130,000 by Cohen to keep quiet, intends to attend Monday’s hearing, according to her lawyer.
The pursuit of Cohen by prosecutors in New York’s southern district presents a second front of legal peril for Trump, who reacted furiously to the FBI raids and claimed they were part of the same supposed “witch-hunt” led by Mueller that has blighted his presidency.The pursuit of Cohen by prosecutors in New York’s southern district presents a second front of legal peril for Trump, who reacted furiously to the FBI raids and claimed they were part of the same supposed “witch-hunt” led by Mueller that has blighted his presidency.
Communications between lawyers and the people they represent are typically kept confidential under the doctrine of attorney-client privilege. But an exception exists for documents providing evidence that the attorney was involved in a crime.Communications between lawyers and the people they represent are typically kept confidential under the doctrine of attorney-client privilege. But an exception exists for documents providing evidence that the attorney was involved in a crime.
The searching of any attorney’s office by the government is highly unusual and typically triggers the appointment of a “taint team” to check seized material for attorney-client privilege. Such special consideration is not given to ordinary suspects.The searching of any attorney’s office by the government is highly unusual and typically triggers the appointment of a “taint team” to check seized material for attorney-client privilege. Such special consideration is not given to ordinary suspects.
Trump’s attorneys demanded in a letter to court on Sunday evening that the justice department’s plan be halted so that “our firm and the president may review for privilege those seized documents that relate to him” – an extraordinary request from someone in Trump’s position in this kind of case.Trump’s attorneys demanded in a letter to court on Sunday evening that the justice department’s plan be halted so that “our firm and the president may review for privilege those seized documents that relate to him” – an extraordinary request from someone in Trump’s position in this kind of case.
They called the FBI raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room “an operation disquieting to lawyers, clients, citizens, and commentators alike”, and repeatedly referred to their client, whom they represent in a personal capacity, as “the president”.They called the FBI raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room “an operation disquieting to lawyers, clients, citizens, and commentators alike”, and repeatedly referred to their client, whom they represent in a personal capacity, as “the president”.
Attorneys for Cohen had already applied to Judge Kimba Wood at Manhattan federal court for a restraining order that would stop authorities reviewing the records seized from Cohen until Cohen’s team has reviewed the materials themselves. Attorneys for Cohen had already applied to Judge Wood at Manhattan federal court for a restraining order that would stop authorities reviewing the records seized from Cohen until Cohen’s team has reviewed the materials themselves.
McKay, the federal prosecutor, said in a court motion arguing against this that Cohen’s request was “unprecedented and is not supported by case law”. McKay stressed that the team of government lawyers who would review the seized material would be “walled off” from their colleagues, like himself, who are pursuing the criminal inquiry against Cohen.McKay, the federal prosecutor, said in a court motion arguing against this that Cohen’s request was “unprecedented and is not supported by case law”. McKay stressed that the team of government lawyers who would review the seized material would be “walled off” from their colleagues, like himself, who are pursuing the criminal inquiry against Cohen.
Prosecutors suggested in their filing that while Cohen “holds himself out as a practicing attorney”, he is actually exaggerating the extent of his work in an attempt to cast a wide net of attorney-client privilege over the records seized by the FBI. Cohen denies this.Prosecutors suggested in their filing that while Cohen “holds himself out as a practicing attorney”, he is actually exaggerating the extent of his work in an attempt to cast a wide net of attorney-client privilege over the records seized by the FBI. Cohen denies this.
The justice department has “reason to believe that Cohen has exceedingly few clients and a low volume of potentially privileged communications”, McKay wrote.The justice department has “reason to believe that Cohen has exceedingly few clients and a low volume of potentially privileged communications”, McKay wrote.
“Unlike a search of a traditional law office, the information gathered thus far in the investigation suggests that the overwhelming majority of evidence seized during the searches will not be privileged material, but rather will relate to Cohen’s business dealings.”“Unlike a search of a traditional law office, the information gathered thus far in the investigation suggests that the overwhelming majority of evidence seized during the searches will not be privileged material, but rather will relate to Cohen’s business dealings.”
Wood ordered on Friday that Cohen’s attorneys produce a list of all the people they claim are his legal clients by Monday, which may in itself lead to heated disputes in the courtroom in lower Manhattan.
Michael CohenMichael Cohen
Donald TrumpDonald Trump
Stormy DanielsStormy Daniels
New YorkNew York
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