NEW YORK — In a courtroom in Manhattan Friday, lawyers representing Michael Cohen told a federal judge that they were seeking the opportunity to review the records seized in multiple FBI raids before prosecutors have the chance to, raising concerns about attorney-client privilege.
A private lawyer representing President Trump, a longtime client of Cohen’s, was also present at the hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood. Trump attorney Joanna Hendon said she was seeking more time to review the case, having only been retained by Trump two days ago. She too said she was concerned about prosecutors being the first to review the records seized, and would prefer that a third party was brought in to review the documents instead.
Attorney Todd Harrison, representing Cohen, also floated the idea of a special master being used to review which documents should fall under attorney-client privilege.
The judge suggested scheduling a hearing Monday so the parties have more time to review the case. Later Friday afternoon, they will reconvene to discuss what can be discussed at an open hearing on Monday. Much of the discussions at Friday morning’s hearing took place at the judge’s bench, and out of earshot of reporters.
Friday’s hearing comes after Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan said in a statement that Monday’s raids were “inappropriate and unnecessary.” According to reports, the warrants sought information on hush money payouts to women who have claimed to have slept with Trump, as well as records related to a taxi business Cohen is involved in.
Also present at the hearing was Michael Avenatti, an attorney representing ex-porn star Stormy Daniels, who Michael Cohen paid off to keep silent about her relationship with Trump.
Investigators seeking a search warrant to raid a lawyer’s office must jump through additional number of hoops before the warrant is even taken to a judge for approval. Justice Department regulations lay out a system for after a raid in which a team of DOJ attorneys seperate from the prosectors on the case — known as a taint team — go through records seized from a lawyer to sort out which documents are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Cohen’s and Trump’s attorneys appear to be objecting to even a taint team being the first to conduct this review.
Hendon noted the “exceptional nature” of her client, and said that both the president and the public have an “interest in the review being done scrupulously so it can withstand scrutiny for all time.”
“This is of most concern to him. I think the public is a close second,” she said.
Cohen’s attorneys filed a brief late last night, which prosecutors responded to in filings this morning. The filings were not immediately available to reporters, but prosecutors said they were fine with the proceedings moving forward as transparently as possible.
Trump’s allies are also concerned that investigators may have seized recordings Cohen had a tendency of making of conversations with his associates, the Washington Post reported.
Trump has been seething about the raids all week.
“I just heard they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys,” Trump told reporters at the White House Monday. “It’s a disgraceful situation.”
The move to seize the records via search warrants rather than a subpoena or a more voluntary request was reportedly approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is also overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Cohen’s attorney said in his statement Monday that the matter was referred from Mueller’s probe to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly referred to Cohen’s attorney as Tom Harrison. His name is Todd Harrison.