Judge Suggests Review of Cohen Documents Is Moving Too Slowly

Glen Norman
June 1, 2018

Special Master Barbara Jones said in a letter Tuesday that lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have designated more than 250 items as subject to attorney-client privilege.

In her update to the court, Jones said investigators from the office of the US attorney for the Southern District of NY have already been given access to almost 300,000 pieces of potential evidence seized from Cohen's office and residences in an April raid. They also said it was likely that they belonged to Cohen's wife, which surprised federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office, who said that they were not previously made aware of that information. Nor would he be able to publicly "degenerate Mr. Cohen". Avenatti said the existence of such recordings was "surprising and disturbing".

Judge Wood said if Trump and Cohen's lawyers don't finish reviewing material by June 15, the task of performing the attorney-client review will be handled by a special "taint team" of prosecutors walled off from those involved in the criminal probe.

Wood also heard from Cohen's legal team about the progress it was making on reviewing materials seized from Cohen's office, residence and hotel room in an Federal Bureau of Investigation raid last month.

The judge asked Cohen's lawyer Todd Harrison if he could give the feds the passwords to the Blackberries.

Avenatti told Wood he did not release anything improper about Cohen, who has not been charged with a crime.

In the recent dust-up with the Journal, Avenatti said he was completely cooperating with federal authorities regarding the investigation into Cohen, and that he and Daniels would continue cooperating.

Michael Avenatti, lawyer of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels speaks to media as he exits court in New York, May 30, 2018.

In court, meanwhile, Avenatti suggested he received a call from a member of the press last week for comment on audio recordings between Daniels' former attorney Keith Davidson and Cohen. One topic at issue is Cohen's payment of $130,000 to Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump subsequently admitted he had reimbursed Cohen for the payment, raising questions about campaign finance violations. But during a feisty hearing Wednesday, federal Judge Kimba Wood said the lawyer - who has been a fixture on CNN and other outlets - would have to first stop his "publicity tour".

Avenatti chose instead to drop the case. He said this was "very surprising and disturbing to me" as an attorney for Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Both Wood and the government want that process to speed up, and Wood sided with the government in setting a June 15 deadline for the review's completion.

She said lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization had made 252 total privilege designations from materials produced by the government on May 8 and May 9.

Judge Wood had warned him about the "publicity tour", since he would be subject to NY laws and procedures if he were allowed on the case - meaning he'd have to pull back on his attacks against Cohen. This material, she said, would be turned over to Cohen's team as soon as possible. Daniels' attorney then withdrew his application to be included in the proceedings.

Steven Ryan, Cohen's lead counsel, informed the choose "I would like extra time" and lobbied - unsuccessfully - for a mid-July deadline.

"It's important for the court to balance the slow, deliberate needs of those who are asserting attorney-client privilege", Wood said, "with the needs for an investigation to go forward".

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