Lawyers for Michael Cohen, joined by a lawyer representing President Donald Trump, were in federal court Friday morning, asking a federal judge to halt review of the evidence seized in the searches against Cohen earlier this week.
The concerns raised by Cohen and Trump’s lawyers surround the attorney-client privilege and how items seized in Monday’s searches should be reviewed, and by whom.
“The dispute before the court is who should make the determination” on attorney-client privilege, US District Judge Kimba Wood noted as the hearing began, but matters quickly got delayed when an attorney for Trump sought more time to review the government’s filing in the matter.
Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, was the subject of widely publicized search warrants that were executed at his office, home, and Manhattan hotel room on April 9.
Attorneys from the Southern District of New York (SDNY) US Attorney’s Office represented the prosecution in the hearing before Wood on Friday, the first official confirmation that SDNY is running the investigation that led to the warrants against Cohen.
In the hearing, the prosecutors made clear their preference to review the seized materials for privilege by using a “taint team,” lawyers from the US Attorney’s Office who are uninvolved in the investigation or prosecution of the matter, to review the materials.
Cohen, on the other hand, is asking the court to appoint a special master to review the materials for attorney-client privilege — before anyone from the US Attorney’s Office would do so. Cohen was represented at the hearing by Todd Harrison, one of his lawyers from McDermott Will and Emery.
Trump’s lawyer, however, was — at this point — just asking for more time. Joanna Hendon, a partner at Spears and Imes, said that she had only been retained by Trump on Wednesday evening.
“This is the president of the United States,” Hendon told Wood, arguing that, as the privilege-holder, he should be involved in the proceedings. “These interests are so weighty.”
Wood has given Trump until 11 a.m. Monday to let the court know if the president will be making any argument different than that being advanced by Cohen regarding the treatment of the seized materials.
The hearing itself was continued until 2 p.m. Monday.
Another hearing on a secondary issue — whether the transcript of a sidebar discussion with the lawyers and the judge from Friday morning’s hearing should be made public — is set for later today, at 2 p.m. Friday.
One of Cohen’s lawyers, Stephen Ryan, previously said that the warrants were sought by the SDNY US Attorney’s Office upon a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. The special counsel’s office has not, however, commented on the matter.
Friday’s 10:30 a.m. proceeding was announced by the court late Thursday night, but no additional information was given at that time.
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