President Donald Trump suffered a setback as a federal judge rejected his initial request to keep prosecutors from immediately reviewing evidence seized by the FBI last week from his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood wrestled in court Monday with the correct way to determine whether materials seized from Cohen’s home, office and hotel room involved privileged communications between Cohen and his clients. Still, the judge ordered prosecutors to make available to Cohen’s attorneys all of the evidence seized. Prosecutors must put the material in digital form and can’t review it yet, the judge said.
Wood said she was open to a plan by prosecutors to set up a team separate from the lawyers investigating the case to review the evidence. But she also said she would consider appointing an impartial “special master” to help in the process. She asked the prosecution team to get a precise estimate on how long their proposed vetting group, a so-called taint team, would need to go through everything and sort out what’s relevant and what’s privileged.
Lawyers for Trump, Cohen and the government spent three hours arguing in a Manhattan courtroom over whether prosecutors investigating Cohen could go through evidence and electronics seized in an April 9 raid.
The hearing, which generated sensational media attention, failed to deliver the sizzle expected with the presence of adult film star Stormy Daniels, who sat slumped in the back of the courtroom.
The biggest revelation was that Cohen had also represented Sean Hannity, the “Fox News” commentator who for the last week has decried the Cohen raids. Cohen had declined to name the client for privacy reasons, but the judge ordered him to provide a name.
Daniels claims she had sex with Trump in 2006 and took a $130,000 hush payment from Cohen shortly before the 2016 election. Cohen has said he made the payment from his own account.
“For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law,” Daniels, accompanied by her lawyer, told reporters outside the courthouse. “This ends now. My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened, and I give my word we will not rest until that happens.”
— With assistance by Christian Berthelsen, and Patricia Hurtado