President Trump asked a federal judge on Sunday night to allow him to review the documents that FBI agents seized from his former lawyer's office before criminal investigators could see the material
request underlines the high stakes in an ongoing legal fight in federal court in New York, where Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, is also struggling to have the opportunity to review the material seized as part of a criminal investigation of his business.
Trump The request, in the form of a letter from other attorneys representing him, could further complicate a hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon. During that session, Cohen's lawyers are expected to tell the judge who oversees the case how many legal clients he has and how many seized documents he believes could be covered by the attorney-client privilege.
Cohen is ready to attend the hearing. Also expected is the adult film star Stormy Daniels, whom Cohen secretly paid $ 130,000 in 2016 to keep silent the details of an alleged sexual liaison he had with Trump.
Prosecutors indicated in court documents on Friday that Cohen was under criminal investigation for months by the United States attorney in Manhattan and that a grand jury has been hearing evidence from the case. [ [ The federals say that the criminal investigation of Trump's lawyer began months ago]
Last week's raid The office and the residences of Cohen enraged the president, who argued on Twitter that the lawyer-client privilege "is dead". Prosecutors have defended the search in part by saying that the investigation has shown that Cohen does not do much legal work and does not seem to have many clients.
Cohen, through his attorneys, has argued that government policies to protect the information covered by the attorney-client privilege are not sufficient, and that his own lawyers should be allowed to review the material seized before the investigators .
In a letter to US District Judge Kimba Wood on Sunday night, other lawyers working on behalf of Trump argue that the president should have the opportunity to review the material before the investigators.
The eight-page letter written by Trump's lawyer, Joanna Hendon, accuses the Justice Department of acting "in an aggressive, intrusive and unorthodox manner" in an attempt to "eliminate the president's right to a complete affirmation." of each privilege argument "available to him. "
The FBI executed search warrants last week in Cohen's office, the home, the safe deposit box, and the hotel room It's unusual, but not unprecedented, for agents to search for a lawyer's records, and there is a policy designed to protect the information covered by the attorney-client privilege.
That procedure involves having a "corrupt team" of prosecutors outside the investigation that reviews all the material and separates what is covered by the privilege. Communications from a lawyer to a client are not covered by the privilege if those discussions do not involve legal advice, or if they were used to promote a crime or fraud.
According to the procedure, the corruption team would hand over the case investigators all material relevant and not covered by the attorney-client privilege.
"The president objects to the government's proposal to use a 'corrupt team'. of prosecutors from the same office that is investigating this matter to carry out the initial privilege review of documents confiscated from the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, & # 39; & # 39; Hendon's said the letter.
He added that "the president respectfully requests" that the judge issue an order preventing the corrupt team from making an initial review of the seized material and demanding that the government hand a copy of that material to Cohen's attorneys.
The president then wants the court to order Cohen to "identify the president of all seized materials that relate to him in any way and provide a copy of those materials to him and his attorney," according to the letter. Any dispute over what material was or was not covered by the attorney-client privilege would then be decided by a judge, as proposed by the president.
People familiar with Cohen's investigation have said he is being investigated for possible fraudulent bank transfers. Prosecutors are examining whether the crimes were committed as part of any pattern or strategy of trying to buy silence from people who might offer accounts that could have damaged Trump's candidacy in 2016.
In addition, the FBI is also investigating If there was fraud, it was committed in connection with Cohen's ownership of taxi medallions, assets whose value has plummeted in recent years.