Criminal Justice

Cohen asserts his legal team should conduct first-cut privilege review of raid documents

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Michael Cohen profile photo.

Michael Cohen.

A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, appeared before a federal judge Friday morning to press claims that his legal team should get the first cut at determining whether documents seized in an FBI raid are privileged or irrelevant.

A lawyer for Trump was also at the hearing to ask U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood to order the Department of Justice to delay looking at the seized materials until the issue is litigated, the New York Times reports. Courthouse News Service, the Associated Press, Politico, CNBC and the Guardian also covered the hearing.

Cohen was represented by Todd Harrison of McDermott Will and Emery, who also took a fallback position: A neutral special master could be used to examine the documents for privileged materials. Trump was represented by Joanna Hendon of Spears & Imes, who said the president hired her on Wednesday.

Hendon agreed with Cohen that federal prosecutors are not the best choice for the review of the documents.

Wood had suggested reconvening the hearing Friday afternoon, but Hendon persuaded her to hold the follow-up hearing on Monday.

The FBI reportedly sought records relating to payments made to two women who had claimed they had affairs with Trump, as well as records relating to an Access Hollywood tape in which Trump made vulgar comments about women. The search warrant also reportedly sought communications between Cohen and campaign aides about possible sources of negative publicity before the election.

Some of Trump’s allies are reportedly concerned that the FBI seized taped conversations by Cohen, who liked to record calls. The New York Times reports that the warrant reportedly authorized searches of Cohen’s cellphones, tablet, laptop and his safe deposit box.

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti was also in the courtroom. He told Wood he had every reason to think some of the documents involved his client, and he asked to be heard when the hearing reconvenes.

Avenatti told reporters after the hearing that his concern is that documents are secured, according to the CNBC account. “We don’t want documents disappearing under any circumstances,” Avenatti said.

Part of the hearing dealt with whether disputes regarding the documents should be closed to the public. The Guardian reports that lawyers for ABC News told Wood that pseudonyms could be used to protect identities of innocent parties.

Related article: “How will prosecutors handle privileged documents from Michael Cohen raids?”

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