Michael Cohen, Trump’s Lawyer, Appears at Manhattan Court HearingOn April 16, 2018 by Ilene
Mr. Cohen’s lawyers have objected to the use of a taint team and, in yet another unusual move, a lawyer for Mr. Trump filed an emergency motion to the court on Sunday night, saying that the president also objected to that “extraordinary measure.” In her motion, the lawyer, Joanna C. Hendon, asked Judge Wood to give the documents to Mr. Cohen first so that she and the president can look at them and decide if any are protected by attorney-client privilege.
The issue before Judge Wood is, at least for now, a relatively narrow one: Who should be the first to read the seized material and thus be in a position to decide if any of them should be excluded from the case and avoid further scrutiny — the taint team, a special master appointed by the court, or Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump themselves? It remained unclear on Monday morning if the judge would rule from the bench or issue a written decision at another time.
The documents could shed light on the president’s relationship with a lawyer who has helped navigate some of Mr. Trump’s thorniest personal and business problems. Mr. Cohen served for more than a decade as a trusted fixer and, during the campaign, helped tamp down brewing scandals about women who claimed to have had affairs with Mr. Trump.
In a new filing on Monday, Mr. Cohen’s lawyers claimed that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized more than a dozen electronic devices during the raids, some of which, they added, contained information that had nothing to do with the investigation. The lawyers also acknowledged that Mr. Cohen had once represented Elliot Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, who resigned on Friday after reports emerged that Mr. Cohen had helped him make a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during their affair.
Echoing several of Mr. Trump’s supporters, the lawyers also noted in their filing that there was “a growing public debate” about whether criminal and congressional investigations by the government “are being undertaken impartially, free of any political bias or partisan motivation.”
“It is in this climate,” they wrote, “that the government executed an unprecedented search warrant — instead of using its less onerous subpoena power — upon the personal attorney of the president of the United States.”
But Michael S. Ross, a lawyer who specializes in the attorney-client privilege and teaches the subject at both Brooklyn and Cardozo Law School, questioned the legal reasoning by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump’s lawyers, especially when it came to the attorney-client privilege.
“The notion that attorney-client privilege is so sacrosanct that the government cannot review the documents or the court cannot determine these issues is not only antiquated, it’s no longer viable,” Mr. Ross said. “It’s not a common-sense argument. The legal community lives with the fact that privilege issues are determined by taint teams or special masters.”