The secrets in President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen’s trove of seized documents are beginning to be examined by federal prosecutors and Stormy Daniels controversial lawyer was told he would have to end his “publicity tour” if he wants to intervene in the federal case.
The flow of millions of documents, records and data seized from Cohen began to flow to federal prosecutors on May 23 after a “special master” appointed to examine them determined the released material does not violate the attorney-client privilege between Cohen and Trump, but U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood said during a hearing today she wants the process to move even quicker.
The judge denied motions by attorneys for Cohen and President Trump that would have slowed down the evaluation of which documents are relevant and admissible today.
Retired federal judge Barbara Jones, who was appointed as the special master has already given the prosecutors access to nearly 300,000 pieces of potential evidence and today delivered another one million files from three of the cell phones seized from Cohen by the FBI in an April raid on his home, office and a hotel room.
Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations, according to the Washington Post, “as part of a probe looking at his efforts to suppress damaging stories about Trump just before the 2016 presidential election.”
Initially, lawyers for Cohen said a lot of the seized documents were privileged but Jones said yesterday that so far they have only identified 252 items as privileged.”
Jones, who was a federal judge for 16 years in New York before her retirement, is expected to rule on the status of those documents on June 4.
Jones is still looking at additional electronic data she received in the past two weeks that came from a video recorder, two computers, and mobile storage devices.
The big takeaway from this hearing is:
1. Judge Wood wants this review to go faster. She appreciates that Special Master Barbara Jones is moving fast, but private lawyers aren't (directed at Cohen/Trump?). Wants to finish in June.
2. Naughty @MichaelAvenatti needs to chill.
— Jed Shugerman (@jedshug) May 30, 2018
During the hearing, Judge Wood addressed a petition by Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti to intervene in the proceedings.
His rationale was that one of the areas prosecutors were said to have been looking for when the raids were conducted had to do with Cohen’s payment of $130,000 just before the election in November 2016 to buy her silence about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
Cohen’s lawyers say it would be inappropriate to let Avenatti into the case, citing his past conduct in this matter and the recent bankruptcy of his law firm.
Avenatti made public documents earlier this month that were said to show financial transactions involving Cohen which revealed how he had made millions by touting his close relationship with Trump from clients ranging from AT&T to the government of Qatar.
Cohen’s lawyers charge that Avenatti was not in legal possession of those records.
Wood reprimanded Avenatti in court reports The New York Daily News.
“You cannot declare your opinion as to Mr. Cohen’s guilt,” said the judge, “which you did.”
“You would not be able to give publicity to documents,” added the judge.
“You’re entitled to publicity,” she added. “I can’t stop you – unless you’re participating in a matter before me.”
The judge never said Avenatti could not participate but did say his “conduct is inimical to eventually giving Mr. Cohen a fair trial.”
An hour after the hearing, Avenatti withdrew his request to be part of the case.
Judge Wood made it clear she wants the documents processed more quickly, declaring that the review must be completed by June 15. She said any remaining material would be turned over to a government ‘taint-team’ to handle.
Keep in mind Cohen is the one who initiated the court proceeding that led to the special master. He hasn't been charged w a crime, but there would be no Barbara Jones if he hadn't take prosecutors to court after the raid.
— Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz) May 29, 2018
The first indication of what it is costing to have Jones go through Cohen’s materials just came out. She was paid $47,390 for work done between April 24 and April 30, which includes meeting with those involved in the case, preparing materials and reviewing the documents in the case.
$700 an hour for Barbara Jones, the special master reviewing Michael Cohen's documents in NY, is not a crazy amount. That's a pretty typical rate for lawyers with her level of experience at big firms–may even be a discount
— Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz) May 29, 2018
Even as the president continues to claim the whole Russia investigation from which all of this stems is a “witch hunt,” and should be thrown out, the wheels of justice are moving forward as the depth, complexity, and machinations of the case become clearer.