In a blow to Donald Trump and his consigliere Michael Cohen, Judge Kimba Woods denied their motions to stop prosecutors from reviewing the evidence seized in the raids of Cohen’s office and residences.
U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood denied the requests and ruled that prosecutors will get first access to the information, followed by Cohen’s defense team ten days later. Wood noted that she has not yet decided whether she will appoint a special master in the case at all.
“It’s not that you’re not good people,” Wood told Cohen’s attorneys on Monday afternoon, near the end of the two-hour proceeding. “It’s that you’ve miscited the law.”
Wood told both sides to review the documents quickly and to prepare “proposals for how we can move fast” on the case going forward. [..]
Prosecutors have said that they went to extreme lengths to avoid violating Cohen’s (and the president’s) attorney-client privilege: they plan to have a “taint team” of uninvolved prosecutors sort the materials before turning the information over to investigators.
“I have faith in the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office that their integrity is unimpeachable,” Judge Wood said. “I think that a taint team is a viable option.” [..]
Over the past week, the legal battle between politicians, porn stars and Playboy models has become increasingly complicated—and mired in legalese.
“If the government can obtain a search warrant for particular items but then seize and review everything in an attorney’s office, the protections of the Fourth Amendment are meaningless,” Harrison, Cohen’s lawyer, wrote in Monday’s letter. “We respectfully submit that the circumstances do not get more special than the unique circumstances presented by this case.”
“The balance of the equities should be with the American citizen whose stuff was taken,” Harrison said in court.
“There’s no question that you’re going to get a set of material,” Judge Wood told Harrison, “but you’re not going to take away what the government has.” [..]
(Assistant US Attorney Thomas) McKay emphasized on Monday that “there’s nothing improper about the way the search warrants were executed in this case.”
Officials took up to 10 “physical boxes” of documents, McKay said, noting that the “real volume” is made up of the seized electronic files.
“Cohen’s signature line in his email box used to say special counsel to the Trump Organization,” said McKay. “Now it says personal attorney to the president.”
Trump and Cohen’s lawyers pointed to the case United States v. Stewart, in which a special master was appointed to review materials for privilege claims. The judge in the Cohen case, Kimba Wood, began on Friday by noting ways in which the facts of the Stewart case didn’t match with Cohen’s, including that the attorney in that case, Lynne Stewart, shared clients and computers with her colleagues in a way that Cohen apparently didn’t.
Paul Rosenzweig, who served with the independent counsel that investigated President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, was skeptical that Wood would give Cohen’s team the power to review its own documents.
“If the government had reason to think that was not a problem, they would have just subpoenaed him in the first place. Then Cohen would have been his own taint team,” said Rosenzweig, who serves as a senior fellow at the center right think tank the R-Street Institute. “Unless the judge thinks there’s something really wonky going on with the government’s investigation, she ain’t going to let Trump’s lawyers be on the taint team.”
What Trump and Cohen are worried most about is that evidence will be found that backs up the allegations in the Steele dossier that acuseed Cohen of meeting with Russians in Prague and Trump’s escapades in a Moskow hotel.