Trump and al­lies fac­ing le­gal ‘mine­field’

The Dominion Post - - World -

UNITED STATES: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his al­lies have hit a new level of anx­i­ety after the FBI raid on his per­sonal at­tor­ney’s office, fear­ful of deeper ex­po­sure for Trump, his in­ner cir­cle and his adult chil­dren – and more than con­cerned that they don’t know ex­actly what is in those records and elec­tronic de­vices seized last week.

There are also wor­ries that Michael Co­hen, the self-de­scribed le­gal fixer who helped to make bad sto­ries go away, may strike a deal with prose­cu­tors out of con­cern about his own prospects.

‘‘I think it’s a huge mine­field for Don­ald Trump and the Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion,’’ said trial at­tor­ney Joseph Cam­marata, who rep­re­sented Paula Jones in her sex­ual ha­rass­ment suit against Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton.

The wild le­gal show con­tin­ued to play out yes­ter­day, at a court hear­ing in New York be­fore a fed­eral judge con­sid­er­ing what to do with the ma­te­rial the FBI seized from Co­hen. The scene was punc­tu­ated by dra­matic en­trances and rev­e­la­tions.

Stormy Daniels – the porn ac­tress who claims she had a sex­ual af­fair with Trump – made an ap­pear­ance, stum­bling on her high heels as she was swarmed by me­dia. Co­hen was forced to re­veal that an­other one of his clients is Fox News host Sean Han­nity, a long­time ally and high-pro­file con­fi­dant of the pres­i­dent.

Judge Kimba Wood wrapped up the hear­ing without mak­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion. She said she trusted prose­cu­tors to re­view the ma­te­ri­als, but might al­low a neu­tral third party to weigh in as well.

Lawyers for Co­hen had asked for the ap­point­ment of a so-called spe­cial mas­ter to re­view the ma­te­rial and make sure noth­ing pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege winds up in the hands of in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Wood said she would con­sider the idea. As a first step, she told prose­cu­tors to put all the seized doc­u­ments into a search­able data­base and share it with Co­hen’s lawyers.

Trump left the White House yes­ter­day for Florida, for a two­day sum­mit with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe at the pres­i­dent’s Mar-a-Lago es­tate. Ad­vis­ers are hop­ing the meet­ing will di­vert at­ten­tion from the le­gal tem­pest in Wash­ing­ton and New York.

On the trip south, White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders sought to put dis­tance be­tween Trump and Co­hen, say­ing: ‘‘I be­lieve they’ve still got some on­go­ing things, but the pres­i­dent has a large num­ber of at­tor­neys, as you know.’’

The FBI raid, car­ried out a week ago in New York City, sought bank records, in­for­ma­tion on Co­hen’s deal­ings in the taxi in­dus­try, Co­hen’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the Trump cam­paign, and in­for­ma­tion on pay­ments he made in 2016 to Daniels and for­mer Play­boy model Karen McDou­gal, who both claim to have had re­la­tion­ships with Trump, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the raid have said.

Though Co­hen once said he ‘‘would take a bul­let’’ for Trump, he is aware of the pos­si­ble out­come – in­clud­ing po­ten­tial prison time – and has ex­pressed worry about his fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to a per­son who has spo­ken with him in re­cent days.

Fur­ther an­ger­ing the pres­i­dent is that the raid was trig­gered in part by a re­fer­ral from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, who is look­ing into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Many in the White House view the af­ter­shocks of the Co­hen raid as po­ten­tially more threat­en­ing the lawyer’s clos­ets, ac­cord­ing to five of­fi­cials and out­side al­lies, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

White House aides have ex­pressed worry that they can control Trump less at his pala­tial Florida es­tate, where he is known to seek out coun­sel from club mem­bers and get revved up by their at-times provoca­tive ad­vice. One re­cent pres­i­den­tial din­ner guest was Han­nity.

Han­nity said yes­ter­day it was no ‘‘big deal’’ that he con­sulted with Co­hen about his own le­gal af­fairs. He said they had ‘‘brief dis­cus­sions’’, but he never re­tained Co­hen ‘‘in any tra­di­tional sense,’’ never paid him, and was never billed.

PHO­TOS: AP

Porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels ar­rives at fed­eral court in New York for a hear­ing where a fed­eral judge con­sid­ered how to re­view ma­te­rial the FBI seized from US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen in a raid on his office last week.

Co­hen has re­vealed that his clients in­clude Fox News host and Trump con­fi­dant Sean Han­nity.

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