NEW YORK (AP) — Porn actress Stormy Daniels was swarmed by photographers and nearly fell as she was hustled into a federal courthouse Monday, a scene that captured the atmosphere around a legal fight involving the president and an FBI investigation into his personal attorney.
Wearing a pink suit and high heels, Daniels was the main attraction — for the media anyway — at a court hearing before a federal judge considering what to do with records and electronic devices that the FBI seized last week in raids on President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen.
The April 9 raid sought information on a variety of matters, including a $130,000 payment made to Daniels, who alleges she had sex with a married Trump in 2006.
At issue is exactly who gets to look at Cohen’s seized documents and devices before they are turned over to prosecutors. Attorneys for Cohen say they want first crack. Trump’s lawyers say they also want some form of prior review. Another option is to set up a “special master” who will vet the material to determine what is protected and what isn’t; that is the Cohen team’s second choice.
Prosecutors, who say they raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room as part of an undisclosed crime related to his personal business dealings, prefer the ordinary procedure of reviewing the documents with a panel of prosecutors unrelated to the investigation — a so-called “taint team.”
At stake is an investigation that could get at the heart of Trump’s longtime fixer and image protector. People familiar with the probe told The Associated Press that agents were seeking bank records, records on Cohen’s dealing in the taxi industry, Cohen’s communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments made in 2016 to two women who say they had affairs with Trump, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn star Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
Lawyers for Cohen filed papers Monday saying investigators “took everything” during raids last week, including more than a dozen electronic devices. They said that prosecutors had already intercepted emails from Cohen and executed the search warrants only after discovering that there were no emails between Trump and Cohen.
One of Trump’s lawyers, Joanna Hendon, filed papers late Sunday asking a federal judge to block prosecutors from studying material seized in the raid until Cohen and the president have both had a chance to review those materials and argue which are subject to attorney-client privilege.
“Fairness and justice — as well as the appearance of fairness and justice — require that, before they are turned over to the Investigative Team, the seized materials relating to the President must be reviewed by the only person who is truly motivated to ensure that the privilege is properly invoked and applied: the privilege-holder himself, the President,” Hendon wrote.
Hendon proposed yet another level of protections, in which Cohen’s lawyers, after finishing their initial review, would then be required to “identify to the president all seized materials that relate to him in any way and provide a copy of those materials to him and his counsel.”
Cohen, who has denied wrongdoing, arrived early Monday afternoon. He did not attend Friday’s hearing and was then ordered by the judge to appear in court Monday to help answer questions about his law practice.
Trump said Sunday that all lawyers are now “deflated and concerned” by the FBI raid on Cohen.
“Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past,” he tweeted. “I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!”
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