Judge con­sid­ers neu­tral party to probe Co­hen doc­u­ments.

Pos­si­bil­ity over­shad­owed by re­veal of Fox’s Han­nity as third client

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEFF MORDOCK This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire-ser­vice re­ports.

A New York fed­eral judge said she would con­sider hav­ing a neu­tral third party de­cide which doc­u­ments the FBI seized from Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal lawyer should be pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

District Judge Kimba Wood sur­prised some court-watch­ers even by say­ing she was open to that pos­si­bil­ity in the dis­pute be­tween the Jus­tice Depart­ment and Michael Co­hen, but ended the Mon­day af­ter­noon hear­ing with­out de­cid­ing.

That pos­si­bil­ity was over­shad­owed though by the dis­clo­sure that Fox News Chan­nel host Sean Han­nity was the third of the three clients whose com­mu­ni­ca­tions Mr. Co­hen wanted to shield by as­sert­ing at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

The gov­ern­ment con­tends the doc­u­ments and other records con­fis­cated by the FBI are crit­i­cal to its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether

Mr. Co­hen sup­pressed neg­a­tive me­dia cov­er­age of Mr. Trump be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Todd Har­ri­son, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Mr. Co­hen, asked for a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der to block the gov­ern­ment from re­view­ing fi­nan­cial records, emails and other doc­u­ments seized in FBI raids last week on Mr. Co­hen’s of­fice, home and ho­tel.

Au­thor­i­ties have said some of the doc­u­ments are re­lated to a $130,000 Mr. Co­hen made to Stephanie Clif­ford, the adult film ac­tress bet­ter known as Stormy Daniels. Ms. Clif­ford said she had an af­fair with Mr. Trump in 2006.

The search war­rant ex­e­cuted by the FBI also sought doc­u­ments re­lated to pos­si­ble cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions, bank fraud and wire fraud.

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein was said to have signed off on the war­rant, which was based on a re­fer­ral by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller. The re­fer­ral re­port­edly was re­lated to in­for­ma­tion Mr. Mueller un­cov­ered prob­ing Rus­sian col­lu­sion with the Trump cam­paign, but was not di­rectly tied to that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mr. Co­hen’s lawyers said in court fil­ings the raid was “com­pletely un­prece­dented” and asked Judge Wood to let their lawyers re­view the doc­u­ments or ap­point a neu­tral third party to de­ter­mine which doc­u­ments should be pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

“This is per­haps the most highly pub­li­cized search war­rant in the his­tory of re­cent Amer­i­can crim­i­nal ju­rispru­dence,” Mr. Har­ri­son wrote. “It is para­mount that the re­view of Mr. Co­hen’s data and doc­u­ments be han­dled in such a way as to elim­i­nate as much as pos­si­ble, even the ‘ap­pear­ance of un­fair­ness.’”

Also, lawyers for Mr. Trump asked for copies of seized records to be turned over to the pres­i­dent so he can re­view them for con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion.

Pros­e­cu­tors fired back in their own fil­ings that ap­point­ing a third party would “mark a se­ri­ous de­par­ture from the ac­cepted nor­mal prac­tices of this district.”

The gov­ern­ment said it has a so-called “fil­ter team” of lawyers un­af­fil­i­ated with the case avail­able to re­view com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Mr. Co­hen and his clients for at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

Judge Wood said she trusts pros­e­cu­tors to re­view the ma­te­rial, but she would mull the idea of a sep­a­rate re­view. She did not say when she will is­sue a de­ci­sion.

Mr. Har­ri­son as­serted in court doc­u­ments that at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege should pro­tect those doc­u­ments, not­ing that Mr. Co­hen had three high­pro­file clients.

The clients were ini­tially iden­ti­fied as Mr. Trump, for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee deputy fi­nance chair El­liott Broidy, but Mr. Har­ri­son tried to avoid nam­ing the third client.

Judge Wood pres­sured Mr. Har­ri­son to re­veal Mr. Han­nity as the client.

On his af­ter­noon ra­dio show, Mr. Han­nity ques­tioned how his link to Mr. Co­hen had be­come “such a big deal,” adding that he never paid Mr. Co­hen or used him as a lawyer “in the tra­di­tional sense.”

Nev­er­the­less, he main­tains that those con­ver­sa­tions are still pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

“I’ve known Michael for a long time and let me be very clear to the me­dia, Michael never rep­re­sented me in any mat­ter. I never re­tained him in the tra­di­tional sense. I never got an in­voice.”

Mr. Han­nity said that none of the mat­ters for which he sought Mr. Co­hen’s ad­vice in­volved law­suits or pay­offs.

“I have eight at­tor­neys for var­i­ous things and I like to have peo­ple I like run ques­tions by,” he con­tin­ued. “Michael would give me his time.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said last week in court fil­ings they had been in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Co­hen for “crim­i­nal con­duct that largely cen­ters on his per­sonal and busi­ness deal­ings.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TOGRAPHS

Did Michael Co­hen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney (cen­ter), sup­press neg­a­tive me­dia cov­er­age of Mr. Trump? The FBI wants to know.

Han­nity

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