President Donald J. Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, each sent a legal team to the Manhattan hearing on Cohen’s motion to suppress materials seized during Monday’s raid of Cohen’s offices and hotel room. The warrant, authorized by a federal judge and executed by FBI agents on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, covered “all documents, including emails between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump, related to Mr. Cohen’s efforts to suppress negative publicity ahead of the 2016 election.”
Federal agents in New York were looking for information about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she had a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump shortly after the birth of his youngest son in 2006. American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, paid Ms. McDougal $150,000. The chief executive of America Media Inc. is a friend of Mr. Trump’s.
Agents were also searching Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room for information related to Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress. Ms. Clifford has said she had sex with Mr. Trump while he was married. Mr. Cohen has acknowledged that he paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to secure her silence days before the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Trump recently told reporters he knew nothing about the agreement.
Trump and Cohen both have protested the raid publicly.
Unsurprisingly, the Trump team kicked off Friday’s hearing with an argument to seal proceedings.
Judge Kimba M. Wood granted Trump’s motion to intervene, formalizing his involvement in a case that would otherwise be Cohen against the U.S. government. The basis? Trump’s claim that he has an interest in the litigation as a matter of attorney-client privilege. It’s no surprise following the afternoon session. There were few fireworks, but the court’s impatience with Cohen’s absence was notable—and earned his attorney chastisement. Judge Wood has mandated Cohen’s attendance on Monday at 2 P.M. for the next major chapter of this battle. She also slapped down an effort to claim attorney-client privilege protects the identities of Cohen’s clients, a weak claim given clear circuit precedent. The government took one last unsuccessful shot at walking away with a win, calling Cohen’s complaint a “delay tactic” and arguing that he failed to meet the burden of justifying his pursuit of the “extraordinary and drastic” remedy of a temporary restraining order.
The government—meaning the U.S. Attorney’s Office—countered.
Consistent with his outraged (yet confused) tweet about attorney-client privilege,Trump’s also fighting the “taint team,” or the team of attorneys who review seized materials to remove anything protected by attorney-client privilege before passing the rest to prosecutors.
Here’s a thought: Directing criticism at the judge is generally not a winning tactic, or the tactic of someone who is winning. A simple rephrase would have averted that. Trump’s attorneys also threw out their usual “but he’s POTUS” argument, to which the assistant U.S. attorney replied, “His attorney client privilege is no stronger than any other person who seeks legal advice.”
Cohen’s and Trump’s attorneys both called for more time to prepare. By contrast, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was ready; the AUSA rejected the argument that it was the government in a rush. After all, Cohen’s the one who was seeking the temporary restraining order.
Tune in Monday at 2 P.M. ET for the next chapter in this proceeding—and start watching for developments in the civil case Daniels has brought against Cohen on Tuesday. Daniels wants the non-disclosure agreement Cohen orchestrated to ban her from speaking about her alleged affair with Trump invalidated. Cohen’s throwing up every roadblock he can.
Most recently, Cohen’s attorneys have indicated he’s going to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and promised a Friday filing seeking an emergency stay. The judge in that case, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero, of the Central District of California, approved a plan for the parties to have filings in on that topic by Tuesday night.