Aiming to leverage the White House’s campaign to discredit the FBI and Justice Department, attorneys for Michael Cohen are claiming that federal prosecutors can’t fairly sort through a trove of documents seized from their client.
In a Monday letter to Judge Kimba Wood, Cohen’s team wrote that either they or an independent third party — known as a special master — should conduct the initial review of the materials, to filter out anything protected by attorney-client privilege and avoid “even the appearance of impropriety.”
Appointing a special master “will protect the integrity of the Government’s investigation from the toxic partisan politics of the day and attacks on the impartiality of the Justice Department and the USAO.”
Of course, the brunt of those attacks have come from President Donald Trump, for whom Cohen has long acted as a fixer. In tweets, public statements and interviews, Trump has for months argued that shadowy “deep state” officials at the FBI and DOJ are hopelessly biased against him.
The president has described the newly revealed criminal investigation into Cohen in similar terms, saying that federal agents acting on legally obtained search warrants “broke into” Cohen’s office and committed an “attack on our country.” Cohen is under investigation for matters related to his personal business dealings, reportedly including hush money payments he made to women who claim they’ve had intimate relationships with the President.
Attorneys for both Trump and Cohen have requested permission to carry out the initial review of the seized materials, though Trump’s lawyers don’t agree that a special master would serve as a good backup option.
Judge Wood asked Cohen’s team during a Friday hearing to turn over an approximate list of individuals with whom Cohen had engaged in an attorney-client relationship, as well as an estimate of how much of the seized material was covered by that privilege.
In their letter, Cohen’s attorneys explain that they don’t know exactly what material was seized and offer more details on those Cohen represented. Between 2017 and 2018, they note, Cohen had seven business clients and three legal clients. Those included Trump and former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman Elliott Broidy. As the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend, Broidy paid Cohen to negotiate a nondisclosure agreement related to a reported affair that Broidy had with a former Playboy model.
Cohen’s attorneys say his third legal client directed Cohen not to reveal his identity publicly. Per their letter, ethical and legal considerations prevent them from doing so. Given that Cohen is caught up in the middle of a sprawling criminal investigation, disclosing the identity of this third unnamed client or of other previous clients Cohen has engaged would “most certainly be embarrassing and ‘detrimental” to those clients, his attorneys write.
Wood is expected to make a determination on these privilege matters at a 2 p.m. ET hearing at Patrick Daniel Moynihan Courthouse in lower Manhattan. Both Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels, one of the recipients of his hush money payments, are expected to attend.
Read the full letter below.