President Trump and his personal attorney Michael Cohen just lost the latest round in the fight to keep documents seized from Cohen’s offices, electronics, and hotel room from being reviewed by federal investigators. Cohen was seeking a temporary restraining order, or TRO, and the judge denied that motion, though a preliminary injunction—another way to block investigators—is still on the table.
It’s not clear when the next hearing will be, but it’ll be hard to beat Monday’s hearing for suspense. In one particularly memorable moment, Judge Kimba Wood ordered Cohen to disclose the name of his third client on the spot—yes, Cohen only has three legal clients—after Cohen fought to withhold it.
It’d take more than one post to explore all the ethical (never mind legal) problems with this revelation, but here’s one for thought.
Also notable? The presence of Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who allegedly had an affair with Trump, and the attorney representing her in her bid to invalidate the nondisclosure contract Cohen orchestrated to keep her from discussing relations with Trump.
Less flashy but perhaps more significant, Judge Wood had some sharp words for Cohen’s and Trump’s attorneys pursuant to legal shenanigans.
Critically, Judge Wood affirmed her support for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and her confidence in its ability to assemble a Filter Team to ensure privileged documents don’t reach investigators.
At the same time, the judge was more receptive to Cohen’s proposed special master—a purportedly neutral single person appointed by the court to review the seized materials—than the U.S. Attorney’s Office would like. The USAO has argued for a Filter Team, the typical solution to situations like this one in which attorney-client privilege is implicated.
Incidentally, Trump’s also opposed to a special master.
Though the judge has not committed to appointing a special master, she tasked the parties with coming up with special master names.
We didn’t learn much more about the warrant or materials seized, but it’s early days.
Next steps: The parties suggest candidates for special master, and the judge turns to the preliminary injunction request—a second, distinct means of blocking federal investigators’ review of the materials until the legal issues are resolved.