A lawyer for President Donald Trump is pressing a federal judge to allow Trump’s attorneys to sift through the records the FBI seized last week in high-profile searches tied to Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
In a new court filing Sunday night, attorney Joanna Hendon called the use of search warrants to authorize seizure of files from Cohen’s home, office and hotel room “disquieting to lawyers, clients, citizens, and commentators alike.” She also argued that allowing Trump’s legal team access to the confiscated records is the only effective way to safeguard the president’s “sacred” right to attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan have argued that they can address those concerns through use of a so-called taint team that would seek out privileged information and prevent it from reaching those investigating Cohen over various issues, including the $130,000 payment he arranged just before the election to a porn star who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump.
But Hendon said that arrangement is “plainly inadequate” to protect Trump’s rights.
“When a lawyer’s files are seized by the government, a taint team member having no first-hand involvement in the underlying representation can only guess as to the nature of the relationships at issue and the circumstances under which particular documents came into being,” she wrote. “No one in that position can adequately safeguard the privilege. …These decisions concerning a sacred privilege are not for a team of prosecutors to make.”
In what could be a sign of potential tension between Cohen and the president, Hendon argued that even if Cohen improperly shared confidential information from Trump with others, that would not necessarily waive the president’s privilege.
“Privileged information that a lawyer intentionally or negligently shares with a third party outside the privileged relationship without the client’s consent remains privileged because a lawyer cannot, without proper authorization, waive his client’s privilege,” Hendon wrote.
At a series of hearings Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood heard arguments from lawyers for Cohen and Trump seeking to block prosecutors from reviewing a trove of materials seized during last Monday’s searches. Prosecutors also disclosed they’d previously seized information from Cohen’s email accounts.
Wood didn’t immediately rule on the requests to block the prosecutors’ review, but set a 10 a.m. deadline Monday for Cohen to identify the clients whose materials could be in the seized records. She also ordered Cohen to appear at 2 p.m. Monday for a further hearing on the issue.
During Friday’s hearings, Wood seemed to chide Hendon for suggesting that Trump may have a stronger right to attorney-client privilege than a typical client. In the filing Sunday night, Hendon shied away from such an argument, but made a similar claim that the intense political spotlight makes the “taint team” approach unwise.
“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 investigation of Mr. Cohen, could perform a privilege review in the manner necessary to safeguard the important interests of the President, as the holder of the privilege,” she wrote.
Laura Nahmias contributed to this report.
Read more here: Trump lawyer presses for access to seized Cohen files