National News

Most Materials Seized in Cohen Case are Not Privileged, Special Master Says

Posted June 4, 2018 10:17 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — A special master reviewing a trove of documents and electronic files seized in April from Michael D. Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, said Monday that, at least so far, only a tiny fraction of the materials are protected by the attorney-client privilege, meaning that most can be used by the federal prosecutors who are conducting a wide-ranging criminal investigation into Cohen.

In a report submitted to Kimba M. Wood, the federal judge presiding over Cohen’s case in Manhattan, the special master, Barbara S. Jones, said that only 14 paper documents out of the 639 that she had looked at are privileged, or partly privileged, and would be withheld from the prosecutors’ inquiry. Of the 291,770 electronic files contained on two of Cohen’s cellphones and on one of his iPads, 148 are privileged and will be withheld if the judge approves, Jones said.

In April, Wood appointed Jones, a former federal judge, to review the contents of eight boxes of documents and more than 30 cellphones, iPads and computer drives seized during raids on Cohen’s office, apartment and hotel room to determine which among the materials were protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Prosecutors have been eager to get their hands on the documents and data in order to pursue a stalled investigation into whether Cohen broke the law in various business dealings, including two hush-money payments he made to women who claim they had affairs with Trump.

Jones has said that she is not reviewing all of the nearly 4 million files seized in the raids, only those materials that lawyers for Cohen and Trump have argued are privileged.

On Thursday, Wood issued an order saying that any objections to Jones’ decisions must be made by a week after she issued her report. Jones has not yet finished her review of the contents of most of Cohen’s electronic devices or of one of his shredders.

At a hearing last week in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Wood warned Cohen’s lawyers, who have also been permitted to look at the materials, that their review was going too slowly and had to be completed by June 15. If they failed to meet that deadline, Wood said, the review would be taken away from them and handed over to a so-called taint team of prosecutors who are walled off from the Cohen investigation.