A federal judge will consider Donald Trump’s extraordinary request that she block his own Justice Department from viewing evidence about his private lawyer seized last week in an FBI raid.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Monday will weigh Trump’s arguments at a hearing that will decide the next steps in a fast-moving investigation of the lawyer, Michael Cohen. Trump’s attorneys and Cohen will be in court — along with Stormy Daniels, the adult-film star who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006 and took a $130,000 hush payment shortly before the 2016 election.
On Sunday, the president’s attorneys filed court papers seeking to temporarily bar Justice Department prosecutors from reviewing evidence taken during the April 9 raid on Cohen’s home, office, hotel room, safety-deposit box and phones.
Some material may involve communications between Trump and Cohen, and should be reviewed first by Trump, not federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating Cohen, the president’s lawyers argued. Prosecutors want a separate group of government lawyers to review the material first and determine what’s covered by the attorney-client privilege — a process Trump’s lawyers say is unfair.
This April 11, 2018 file photo shows attorney Michael Cohen in New York.
“In the highly politicized, even fevered atmosphere that envelops this matter, it is simply unreasonable to expect that a team of prosecutors, even if not directly involved in the separate investigation of Mr. Cohen, could perform a privilege review in the manner necessary to safeguard the important interests of the President,” Trump’s attorney, Joanna Hendon, wrote in an eight-page letter to the judge.
The legal maneuvering is the latest twist in parallel U.S. investigations that Trump has assailed as a “witch hunt.” In Washington, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election, while the U.S. attorney in New York has opened his own investigation of Cohen’s activities. Trump’s aides consider the Cohen inquiry, which has been underway for several months, to pose the greater threat to the president, the New York Times reported April 13.
“The question now before the court is, who should perform the initial review of the seized materials to assess whether they are, or are not, subject to a valid claim of privilege,” Hendon wrote. The choice is between a “team consisting of colleagues of the prosecutors assigned to this investigation, or the President, who is the holder of the …read more