What to Know
- Michael Cohen's efforts to influence what material seized in the April 9 raids can be subject to attorney-client privilege
- Eight boxes of paper documents were the first materials to face the scrutiny
- The majority of what was seized, though, was contained on over a dozen electronic devices, including computers, cellular phones and an iPad
Lawyers for President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, failed to persuade a judge Wednesday for more time to analyze millions of files seized by the FBI, but they did get one thing they wanted: Their TV tormentor, Stormy Daniels' attorney, withdrew a request to get a formal role in the case.
The federal judge, refereeing an ongoing legal tussle about which documents should be withheld from investigators because of attorney-client privilege, gave lawyers for Trump and Cohen until June 15 to finish reviewing 3.7 million paper and electronic files seized in the April raids.
The deadline for them to identify documents they believe are confidential was set over the objection of Cohen's lawyer, Todd Harrison.
"We're working around-the-clock," he told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, saying that even with a team of 15 lawyers "moving heaven and earth," they had only finished reviewing 1.3 million files so far and didn't expect to finish until mid-July.
"I don't know if we can make that," another Cohen lawyer, Stephen Ryan, said of the June 15 deadline.
Wood was unmoved, but she made comments in court that may have prompted Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to withdraw a request to get a formal role in the legal negotiations.
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Avenatti had applied to intervene in the case so he could ensure that any confidential records or recordings related to Daniels that were in Cohen's possession weren't improperly disclosed.
Much of Wednesday's hearing was consumed by spirited arguments about Avenatti's numerous public attacks on Cohen, mostly through live cable TV appearances. Cohen's lawyers have protested that the barrage was improper.
Wood told Avenatti that while he is free to speak his mind now, he would have to end his "publicity tour" and attacks on Cohen if he became part of the case. Lawyers practicing in the federal court in Manhattan must follow local rules barring statements that might taint prospective jurors.
Shortly after the court hearing, Avenatti withdrew his application, but not before appearing before TV cameras outside again and assailing Cohen and his legal team once more.
Among other things, Avenatti has accused Cohen's lawyers of giving a journalist an audio recording of a conversation between Daniels' former lawyer and Cohen.
Ryan denied that Cohen's lawyers gave recordings to a reporter, but said if his firm had, "it would be the biggest story in America."
He, in turn, told the judge Avenatti should be questioned about how he acquired certain bank records related to Cohen's business dealings that he recently made public. Ryan suggested prosecutors were behind it, saying they and Avenatti had become "strange bedfellows."
"There's a very strange thing going on," he said.
Daniels got a $130,000 payment from Cohen before the election in exchange for not speaking about an alleged sexual encounter with the president. Daniels has said she had sex once with Trump, in 2006. Trump denies it. Daniels was not in court Wednesday.
Special Master Barbara Jones said in a letter Tuesday that lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have designated more than 250 items as subject to attorney-client privilege. She said the material includes data from a video recorder.
Judge Wood said if Trump and Cohen's lawyers don't finish reviewing material by June 15, the task of performing the attorney-client review will be handled by a special "taint team" of prosecutors walled off from those involved in the criminal probe.
Of the material seized from Cohen's home, hotel and office in April, only two old Blackberry phones and the contents of a shredder have yet to be turned over to Cohen's lawyers, prosecutors said.
The files, mostly from phones and electronic storage devices, were seized April 9 in raids on Cohen's Manhattan home and office. The raids initially drew an outcry from Trump, who claimed an attack on attorney-client privilege.
The raids on Cohen were triggered in part by a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who separately is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Wood became involved after Cohen came to court, complaining that he feared attorney-client privilege would not be protected.