Trump favourite outed in court

The Australian - - WORLD -

NEW YORK: Don­ald Trump’s le­gal bat­tle with his Jus­tice Depart­ment led to an ex­tra­or­di­nary court­room show­down yes­ter­day be­tween his per­sonal lawyer, one of the US’s most pres­ti­gious pros­e­cu­tion of­fices and a laven­der-clad porn star fu­elling the me­dia cir­cus.

The hear­ing be­fore a fed­eral judge in down­town Man­hat­tan, cen­tred on a tech­ni­cal­ity, al­most de­scended into a farce when the name of Mr Trump’s favourite Fox News an­chor was sud­denly re­vealed as an­other pur­ported client of Michael Co­hen.

Mr Co­hen, the pres­i­dent’s long-time per­sonal lawyer and fixer, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI. Last week, agents con­fis­cated doc­u­ments in a raid on his home, ho­tel room, of­fice and a safety de­posit box. They also seized two mo­bile phones.

His le­gal team and Mr Trump — who de­nounced the raid as a “witch hunt” — sought a re­strain­ing or­der that would pre­vent pros- ecu­tors from re­view­ing the ma­te­rial un­til the Pres­i­dent can de­cide if any of it should be pro­tected by lawyer-client priv­i­lege.

US district judge Kimba Wood de­nied the re­quest, but agreed that Mr Co­hen’s le­gal team should have ac­cess to the doc­u­ments, in­struct­ing pros­e­cu­tors to scan any ma­te­rial not al­ready in elec­tronic form into an ac­ces­si­ble data­base.

How long that will take is not clear. Judge Wood also asked lawyers for Mr Co­hen and Mr Trump to come up with names for a “spe­cial mas­ter” who she could po­ten­tially ap­point to comb through the doc­u­ments first. For now, the US at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Man­hat­tan agreed not to ex­am­ine any of the ma­te­rial, pend­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion from the judge.

Judge Wood oth­er­wise forced Mr Co­hen’s lawyer to re­veal the name of a pre­vi­ously undis­closed client, who could also be af­fected by lawyer-client priv­i­lege con­cerns. Mr Co­hen said he had worked for only three clients in the past year — Mr Trump, a Repub­li­can fundraiser who ad­mit­ted to pay­ing a for­mer Play­boy model af­ter she be­came preg­nant dur­ing their af­fair and a third he did not name be­cause the client re­fused to give his per­mis­sion to be named.

Yes­ter­day, the court heard the third client was Sean Han­nity, the Fox News host Mr Trump is known to ad­mire and speak with by tele­phone, and whose show is the most watched in US ca­ble news. Af­ter last week’s raid on Mr Co­hen’s of­fices, Han­nity took to the air to de­nounce the probe as a “de­clared war” against the US Pres­i­dent.

The rev­e­la­tion was met with gasps and laugh­ter in court, but Han­nity him­self fu­ri­ously de­nied any such re­la­tion­ship.

“Michael Co­hen has never rep­re­sented me in any mat­ter. I never re­tained him, re­ceived an in­voice, or paid le­gal fees. I have oc­ca­sion­ally had brief dis­cus­sions with him about le­gal ques­tions about which I wanted his in­put and per­spec­tive,” he tweeted.

“I have no per­sonal in­ter­est in this pro­ceed­ing, and, in fact, asked that my de min­imis dis­cus­sions with Michael Co­hen, which dealt al­most ex­clu­sively about real es­tate, not be made a part of this pro­ceed­ing.”

Some of the doc­u­ments seized by the FBI re­late to a pay­ment of $US130,000 ($167,000) that Mr Co­hen ad­mits mak­ing to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a one-night stand with Trump a decade ago. The Pres­i­dent has de­nied any knowl­edge of the pay­ment to se­cure Daniels’s Oc­to­ber 2016 sig­na­ture on a hush agree­ment pre­vent­ing her from talk­ing about the li­ai­son.

The porn star, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is fight­ing to quash the agree­ment.

She was whisked into court past an enor­mous me­dia scrum, squeez­ing into a spot in the back at the last minute.

Daniels, dressed in a pale pur­ple skirt suit and black blouse, talked to re­porters af­ter the 2½hour hear­ing. “For years, Mr Co­hen has acted like he is above the law,” she said. “That ends now.

“My at­tor­ney and I are com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure that every­one finds out the truth and the facts of what hap­pened.”

Her lawyer, Michael Ave­natti, added: “Michael Co­hen was ra­dioac­tive ... I think there is sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger to the Pres­i­dent.

The Pres­i­dent trusted Mr Co­hen with his in­ner-most se­crets and I think the chick­ens are about to come home to roost.”

The Jus­tice Depart­ment says Mr Co­hen has been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for months for crim­i­nal con­duct largely cen­tred on his “per­sonal busi­ness deal­ings” but court pa­pers have been redacted, leav­ing the specifics un­der wraps.

Pros­e­cu­tors say they are look­ing for ev­i­dence of crimes, “many of which have noth­ing to do with his work as an at­tor­ney”.

The raid on Mr Co­hen’s home and of­fice came as spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe in­ten­si­fies its fo­cus on the Pres­i­dent’s in­ner cir­cle. Mr Mueller’s team is ex­am­in­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween Mr Trump’s 2016 elec­tion cam­paign team and Rus­sia, and al­le­ga­tions of cor­rupt be­hav­iour by Trump cam­paign lieu­tenants and of White House ef­forts to ob­struct the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. So far, 19 peo­ple have been in­dicted, in­clud­ing the chair­man of the Trump cam­paign.

GETTY IM­AGES

‘For years, Mr Co­hen has acted like he is above the law’: Stormy Daniels emerges from the Man­hat­tan fed­eral district court yes­ter­day

GETTY IM­AGES

‘Michael Co­hen was ra­dioac­tive’; Mr Co­hen yes­ter­day

Han­nity

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