- Brendan McDermid/Reuters
- US District Judge Kimba Wood laid out what from the first batch of President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen’s reviewed documents was covered by attorney-client privilege.
- In Wood’s Friday filing, 153 of the 161 documents labeled as privileged – and therefore could not be used in a potential prosecution of Cohen – involved Cohen consulting with attorneys.
- Just eight documents involved Cohen in direct consultation with one of his clients.
US District Judge Kimba Wood on Friday outlined what from an early batch of Michael Cohen’s reviewed documents was covered by attorney-client privilege.
Almost none of it involved communications between Cohen and one of his clients, such as President Donald Trump, whom Cohen served as an attorney for years.
Cohen is the focus of an investigation in the Southern District of New York into whether he violated campaign-finance laws or committed bank fraud, wire fraud, illegal lobbying, or other crimes. He has not been charged. In April, the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room.
At the center of Cohen’s troubles is a $130,000 hush-money payment he facilitated weeks before the 2016 presidential election to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to keep her quiet about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump. The FBI sought documents related to that payment and other similar agreements with women.
Right now, the documents obtained by the FBI in the raids are the focus of Cohen’s case. In April, Cohen and his lawyers successfully argued for the appointment of a special master, allowing them, Trump’s attorneys, and the Trump Organization to identify documents protected by attorney-client privilege that could not be used in a potential prosecution.
Barbara Jones, a retired federal judge, was appointed as the special master to oversee the review and determine which documents are privileged. Last week, Jones reported that she had reviewed the first 300,000 documents and determined that just 162 were privileged. She disagreed with Cohen, Trump, and the Trump Organization on three, and they did not object to her ruling. Jones later amended her ruling to place one of those 162 documents under her further consideration.
In Wood’s Friday filing, 153 of the 161 documents that were labeled as privileged – and therefore could not be used in a potential prosecution of Cohen – involved Cohen consulting with attorneys. Just eight documents involved Cohen in direct consultation with one of his clients.
As Wood laid out in the filing:
- 112 of the items are text messages between Cohen and his outside counsel involving legal advice.
- 28 of the items are emails between Cohen and his outside counsel involving legal advice.
- 7 of the items are emails between Cohen and one of his clients involving legal advice.
- 1 of the items is an email where someone asked Cohen to represent them legally.
- 9 of the items are emails where an outside counsel provided a legal memoranda providing legal advice to Cohen or one of his clients.
- 1 of the items is a letter from Cohen’s lawyer containing legal advice.
- 2 of the items are retainer agreements between Cohen and his lawyers, which contained requests for legal advice.
- 1 items is a litigation document containing notes for Cohen’s lawyer.
Wood wrote that the court also reviewed seven documents that Jones labeled as “highly personal” and not suitable to be used by the government in a prosecution. All of those documents involve Cohen’s family affairs and are irrelevant to a potential case, Wood wrote.
After Cohen’s offices were raided in April, Trump fumed online, suggesting it was a violation of attorney-client privilege to raid his lawyer’s office. But, at least so far, almost none of the documents have proven to fall under those protections.
“Attorney-client privilege is dead!” Trump tweeted.
In the following weeks, Trump distanced himself from Cohen, suggesting that the investigation has far more to do with his business dealings than anything he did for the president. Trump has also said he is not worried about Cohen providing the government with anything damaging on him because he hasn’t done anything wrong.
In the Friday filing, Wood also set a Monday deadline for Cohen’s team to finish reviewing the remaining documents in their possession for privilege designations. Trump and the Trump Organization have until Wednesday to make similar designations, Wood ordered. As of late May, Cohen’s team had completed its review for more than 1.3 million of the roughly 3.7 million total documents.