A federal judge denied Trump’s and Cohen’s request to block the DOJ from reviewing documents seized by the FBI

michael cohen
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, center, leaves federal court, Monday, April 16, 2018, in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP

 

  • A federal judge on Monday denied President Trump’s and his lawyer Michael Cohen’s requests to block the Justice Department from reviewing documents they seized during an FBI raid on Cohen’s property last week.
  • Cohen’s lawyers sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the US government to prevent investigators from viewing the documents.
  • Judge Kimba Wood denied the temporary restraining order but seemed to lean toward a compromise between the sides.
  • To that end, Wood ruled that prosecutors must turn over seized documents to Cohen’s lawyers so that they can inform the court of which materials they deem privileged.
  • She said that after Cohen’s team comes back with an estimate of how many documents should be withheld, she will decide whether a “taint team” is sufficient to separate privileged materials out, or whether an independent lawyer should be tasked with doing so.

NEW YORK — On Monday, a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump’s and his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s request to prohibit federal prosecutors from reviewing documents they seized during an FBI raid of Cohen’s property last week.

Cohen’s lawyers requested both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the US government. Both motions sought to prevent prosecutors from reviewing documents and records that had been seized in the raids of Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room.

Cohen’s lawyers want to go over the documents and tapes and shield from prosecutors any they deem privileged. Cohen also proposed, as an alternative, that an independent lawyer, or special master, review the files first.

In addition to documents and records, investigators also obtained a search warrant to seize Cohen’s electronic devices and communications between Cohen and Trump. The raid was conducted as part of a federal criminal investigation into Cohen. He is being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud, and violations of election law.

Lawyers separately representing Cohen’s and Trump’s interests first asked the US district court in Manhattan to block the Justice Department from reviewing the seized communications last week.

Judge Kimba Wood postponed making a decision until Monday’s hearing.

On Monday, Wood denied the temporary restraining order because lawyers representing the Manhattan US attorney’s office said they have not looked substantively at the documents that were obtained. Instead, they said, those documents are currently being reviewed by a “taint team” — a group of separate investigators walled off from prosecutors, who are primarily responsible for separating out materials that fall under attorney-client privilege.

Wood said she trusted that the Southern District of New York’s “integrity is unimpeachable,” adding that she thought the use of a “taint team” is a viable option.

But she said she would hold off on making a decision about the preliminary injunction until the court reconvenes at a later date. However, she appeared to lean in the direction of appointing a special master.

Meanwhile, Joanna Hendon, an attorney representing Trump’s interests in the case, pushed back against the appointment of a special master. Hendon argued that a special master does not have the right to view privileged materials pertaining to Trump.

Wood dismissed Hendon’s argument, saying it fell outside the scope of what was being debated in the case.

After deciding on a course of action, Wood said that to get the process going, prosecutors must turn over materials that were seized from last week’s raid to Cohen’s attorneys so they can convey to the court how much of it may be subject to attorney client privilege.

She said that after Cohen’s team responds with an estimate of how much of the seized material it believes may be subject to attorney client privilege, she would make a decision on whether a “taint team” is sufficient to separate privileged materials out, or whether a special master should be tasked with doing so.

She warned that Cohen’s team will need to “move very fast” to determine which materials it believes should be withheld, adding that it was “a test” for them.

“As soon as you’ve seen the documents, I want to hear your proposal for how to move” forward, Wood said.

Wood also asked both sides to each provide four nominees for special master.

As reported by Business Insider