RE­QUEST

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page -

late 2016 in ex­change for her agree­ment not to dis­cuss an al­leged sex­ual en­counter with Trump.

Han­nity played down his re­la­tion­ship with Co­hen, say­ing he oc­ca­sion­ally asked him le­gal ques­tions but never paid him. But the con­nec­tion be­tween the two men in­serted an­other high-pro­file, po­lar­iz­ing Trump ally into the drama sur­round­ing the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pres­i­dent’s long­time lawyer.

The le­gal show­down be­gan last week when FBI agents searched Co­hen’s of­fice, home, ho­tel room and safede­posit box, seiz­ing records and doc­u­ments as part of a probe by fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in New York into pos­si­ble bank fraud and wire fraud.

Lawyers for Co­hen and Trump have ar­gued that the seizure could lead to vi­o­la­tions of at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

At a hear­ing Mon­day be­fore U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors sparred with lawyers for Co­hen and a lawyer for Trump, who Sun­day night asked the judge to let the pres­i­dent re­view the seized ma­te­rial be­fore in­ves­ti­ga­tors go through it.

Last week, Co­hen’s Porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels ar­rives at fed­eral court Mon­day in New York for a hear­ing on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­quest that he be al­lowed to re­view records seized from his lawyer, Michael Co­hen. at­tor­neys asked to re­view the doc­u­ments, or have a court-ap­pointed spe­cial mas­ter do so, to de­ter­mine what ma­te­rial is pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

The judge did not make a de­ci­sion but said she was con­sid­er­ing ap­point­ing a spe­cial mas­ter — not be­cause of le­gal prece­dent but in the in­ter­est of avoid­ing the ap­pear­ance of bias in the po­lit­i­cally charged case. Wood said she wanted more in­for­ma­tion be­fore rul­ing.

“I have faith in the South­ern District U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice that their in­tegrity is unim­peach­able,” she said. But she added that to ad­dress con­cerns about “fair­ness” raised by Trump and Co­hen’s at­tor­neys, “a spe­cial mas­ter might have a role here. Maybe not the com­plete role, but some role.”

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Thomas McKay urged the judge to re­ject the re­quests from the pres­i­dent and Co­hen.

“Just be­cause he has a pow­er­ful client doesn’t mean he should get spe­cial treat­ment,” said McKay, who warned that if the judge gives them an inch, “they’re go­ing to take a mile.”

Trump at­tor­ney Joanna Hen­don told the judge that the pres­i­dent “is ob­ject­ing to any­one other than him­self mak­ing the ini­tial de­ter­mi­na­tion of priv­i­lege,” urg­ing cau­tion over haste.

“This is an ex­tra­or­di­nary case,” she said. “There’s tremen­dous risk that priv­i­leged ma­te­rial could not be rec­og­nized as such.”

It is un­usual but not un­prece­dented for crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors to seize doc­u­ments from a lawyer, and there is a pol­icy in place de­signed to shield in­for­ma­tion cov­ered by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

That pro­ce­dure in­volves hav­ing a “taint team” — also called a “fil­ter team” — of pros­e­cu­tors out­side the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­view all the ma­te­rial and sep­a­rate what is cov­ered by the priv­i­lege. A lawyer’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions with a client are not cov­ered by the priv­i­lege if they did not in­volve le­gal ad­vice or were used to fur­ther a crime or fraud.

Un­der the pro­ce­dure, the taint team would turn over to the case in­ves­ti­ga­tors all the ma­te­rial that is rel­e­vant and not cov­ered by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

Wood said Mon­day that “a taint team is a vi­able op­tion,” but it was un­clear how she would ul­ti­mately de­cide to as­sess the pos­si­bly priv­i­leged ma­te­rial.

The case car­ried added weight be­cause of the strange cir­cum­stance of a Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyer squar­ing off in court against a lawyer for the pres­i­dent to ar­gue about po­ten­tial ev­i­dence in a crim­i­nal probe of the pres­i­dent’s pri­vate at­tor­ney.

In the course of their ar­gu­ments, Co­hen’s lawyers ac­knowl­edged that he has had only about three le­gal clients in the past year and a half — Trump, for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee deputy fi­nance chair­man El­liot Broidy and a mys­tery third client whom Co­hen ini­tially didn’t want to name.

Un­der pres­sure from the judge, Co­hen’s le­gal team even­tu­ally re­vealed that Han­nity was the third client, draw­ing gasps and some chuck­les in the court­room.

The fire­brand com­men­ta­tor is a close in­for­mal ad­viser to Trump, who has urged the pub­lic to watch Han­nity’s show, dur­ing which he reg­u­larly at­tacks the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 cam­paign.

Last week, Han­nity crit­i­cized the raids on Co­hen’s of­fice and res­i­dences as “an un­prece­dented abuse of power,” never men­tion­ing his re­la­tion­ship with the Trump lawyer.

“Michael Co­hen has never rep­re­sented me in any mat­ter,” the con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor tweeted Mon­day. “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.”

Co­hen has come un­der scru­tiny by fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors for his ef­forts to tamp down neg­a­tive sto­ries about Trump, such as the one in­volv­ing Stormy Daniels.

Last week, it was re­vealed that Co­hen had helped Broidy ne­go­ti­ate a $1.6 mil­lion set­tle­ment with a for­mer Play­boy model who got preg­nant af­ter they had an af­fair.

Daniels at­tended Mon­day’s hear­ing, telling re­porters af­ter­ward that “for years, Mr. Co­hen has acted like he is above the law.”

“He has never thought that the lit­tle man — or es­pe­cially, women, and even more, women like me — mat­ter,” she said. “That ends now. My at­tor­ney and I are com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure that every­one finds out the truth.”

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