politics

Trump and Cohen Ready With Teams of Lawyers for Records Review

Updated on
  • Judge Wood calls a Thursday conference on seized evidence
  • Prosecutors at odds with Trump, Cohen over review method

Trump Loses Cohen Papers Decision

President Donald Trump, his personal business and his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen say they’re ready with teams of attorneys to conduct a review of materials seized during an FBI search of Cohen’s premises for materials that may be protected by attorney-client privilege.

Trump, the Trump Organization and Cohen responded Wednesday to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood’s directive to outline a plan for a quick document review.

Wood issued her directions in a brief order indicating she might appoint a special master -- an independent judge or lawyer -- to review evidence Trump, the organization or Cohen say shouldn’t be seen by investigators because it’s privileged. The judge has scheduled a hearing about the matter in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.

Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization each said they could assemble an impressive array of legal firepower to get the job done quickly, as requested.

Cohen’s lawyers at McDermott Will & Emery LLP told Wood that the firm’s “well-equipped to conduct this review in an expeditious manner,” with a team of 27 attorneys and technology professionals who have handled large document reviews under tight deadlines. The firm has another eight lawyers in New York and Washington who can jump in, according to its letter.

“We can add as many other attorneys as needed,” Cohen’s lawyers Todd Harrison and Stephen Ryan told Wood in a letter.

Trump Review

Trump’s law firm, Spears & Imes LLP, promised that it would hire a “preeminent forensic e-discovery and legal technology solutions vendor.” If necessary, it would hire a second vendor that uses experienced contract attorneys.

The Trump Organization said it would use “a leading third-party e-discovery provider,” as well as five of its own lawyers and three from the firm of its outside attorney, Alan Futerfas.

In her order, Wood said the lawyers “should be prepared to address the process to be undertaken by a special master, should one be appointed.” She asked what resources each party could have in place for the “expeditious” production of non-privileged materials, and to provide the special master “with any necessary information to make timely and accurate determination as to privilege.”

Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and safety-deposit box were searched by the FBI on April 9 as part of a long-running criminal investigation into his activities. Agents seized documents and made copies of computer hard drives and mobile phone data.

Unusual Raid

It’s rare for federal agents to seize an attorney’s records, and unprecedented to take those of a president’s personal lawyer.

The case has generated intense media attention, with adult film actress Stormy Daniels having attended a hearing April 16. She got a $130,000 payment from Cohen in 2016 to keep quiet about allegedly having sex with Trump in 2006. The hearing created a bigger sensation when it was disclosed Fox News host Sean Hannity was one of three of Cohen’s clients.

U.S. prosecutors oppose the appointment of a special master, saying a separate team of government lawyers, unrelated to the investigation, would move faster to weed out material. Wood has seven names -- four from Cohen’s legal team and three from the government -- to consider.

She may issue a decision on whether she’ll choose a special master, and who she’ll pick, at Thursday’s hearing.

Prosecutors in New York haven’t identified what specifically they’re probing in relation to Cohen, although they said in a court filing that "the investigation relates in large part to conduct by Cohen in his personal business and financial dealings."

The Washington Post reported that Cohen is under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. CNN said investigators were also seeking information about the hush agreement with Daniels.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is separately examining possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the 2016 election.

The case is In the Matter of Search Warrants Executed on April 9, 2018, 18-mj-3161, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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