A day after Michael Cohen said he would exercise his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself about his dealings with Trump’s former mistress Stephanie “Stormy Daniels” Clifford, the judge in the high profile case has addressed the thorny issue of how much of what was seized from Trump’s personal lawyer in FBI raids could violate attorney-client privilege.
Judge Kimba Wood said at a hearing today in New York City that she appointed former federal judge Barbara Jones as a “special master” to look over the evidence. Jones served as a federal judge for 17 years until she retired from the bench to enter private practice five years ago, giving her the experience to determine if materials seized in the April 9 raids is admissible in the case involving the porn star who says she had an affair with Trump.
The judge said both the government and Cohen’s lawyers have agreed to the appointment of Jones. They consider it the best way to determine what should be off-limits to investigators and prosecutors who indicate the raids took place as part of a fraud investigation.
Cohen has said he wants to screen all materials before prosecutors view them.
An attorney representing Trump, Joanna Hendon, said yesterday that the president is willing to personally review the materials.
“Our client will make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf,” Hendon told the judge in a letter.
The prosecutors from the office of the U.S. Attorney in New York have indicated they do not believe much of the material is covered by the attorney-client privilege “given public comments made by Trump and Fox News personality Sean Hannity, two of Cohen’s three clients,” reported the Associated Press.
Now it will be up to Jones to evaluate item by item what is relevant and what is protected from being seen by prosecutors, after which she will report to the judge who will make the final decisions on what can be used for possible criminal charges against Cohen.
In an interview on the show Fox & Friends this morning, Trump acknowledged for the first time that Cohen represented him in efforts to silence Daniels, after previously denying any knowledge of the $130,000 hush payment Cohen paid to Daniels just prior to the 2016 election.
“Michael represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “And from what I’ve seen, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this.”
Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, minutes later on MSNBC said that Trump had made a “hugely damaging admission.” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell summed up the admission in the following tweet:
.@CevallosLaw: The entire reason that the parties are in court today is b/c Cohen is arguing that large amount of docs are privileged…but you have POTUS saying Cohen is a businessman and not an atty, handling a "tiny tiny" amount of legal work for him. #AMR
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) April 26, 2018
As the Cohen case moves forward Trump’s lies ring ever more hollow as he tries to distance himself from his own lawyer.
Trump may or may not be an important client of Cohen, but he proves nearly daily that he is a very bad and very difficult client for any lawyer to represent.