President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will get to review the documents that the government seized from him before prosecutors do, a federal judge ruled Monday. After the documents are provided to Cohen and his attorneys, the judge will decide whether a special government filter team or a so-called "special master" will get to further review the documents for those that might be covered by attorney-client privilege.
Cohen appeared in court on Monday, one week after FBI agents raided his office, home and hotel room. Federal prosecutors have been investigating Cohen for months. His lawyer has said that the referral for the April 9 search came from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
After the raid, lawyers for Cohen had sought permission from the judge to review the items seized in case any materials were covered by attorney-client privilege, instead of a having a filter team or special master do it. The federal prosecutors in Manhattan argued that granting Cohen’s lawyers that authority would be unprecedented, and that the use of a special government team would be more appropriate than appointing a special master.
In a court filing on Monday before the hearing, lawyers for Cohen argued that the government seized “documents and data regarding topics and issues that have nothing to do with the probable cause upon which the search warrant was granted in the first place.” The judge had asked Cohen’s lawyers to provide the number of clients he had who might be covered under attorney-client privilege. Cohen had three clients covered by attorney-client privilege in the last year, his lawyers responded, including Trump and Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser.
During Monday’s hearing, Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, revealed that the third client is Sean Hannity, the Fox News host. The disclosure came after much back and forth between the lawyers and the judge.
Trump has intervened in the case. His lawyer in the matter, Joanna Hendon, did not respond to questions from Newsweek outside the courthouse on Friday and Monday.
Also present in the courtroom on Monday were lawyers for the Trump Organization and Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who Cohen paid to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump. The actress also came for the hearing. She and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti were turned away at first from the at-capacity room but were admitted minutes later. Neither addressed the court during the hearing.
Cohen, who the judge had ordered to appear in court on Monday, has continued to make headlines. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Trump called Cohen that day to “check in.” Also on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen helped arrange a nondisclosure agreement between a Playboy Playmate and Broidy, the Republican fundraiser. Broidy, who has now resigned from the Republican National Committee, paid $1.6 million to a model with whom he had had an affair and who later became pregnant.
On Sunday, the Journal reported that around 2013, Cohen convinced Us Weekly to drop a story it was planning to publish claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had an affair with the singer Aubrey O'Day. Trump Jr. was a judge on Celebrity Apprentice when O'Day was a contestant. Cohen apparently threatened legal action and the magazine backed down, according to the report. (The claims about Trump Jr. and O'Day recently resurfaced.)
Separately from the federal case in Manhattan, Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has filed a suit in California to get out of her nondisclosure agreement.
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