- Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters
- Attorneys separately representing President Donald Trump and his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, argued Friday that the Justice Department should be blocked from reviewing communications between Trump and Cohen.
- As their attorneys were in court, Trump reportedly called Cohen to “check in.”
- Trump and Cohen are not co-defendants are not represented by the same attorneys. They are also not known to be parties to a joint defense agreement.
- Depending on what was discussed during the reported call, it could raise problems for both Trump and Cohen.
President Donald Trump called his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to “check in” on Friday as the two men are enveloped by a legal firestorm, The New York Times reported.
The alleged call took place while attorneys separately representing Trump and Cohen were asking a federal judge to restrict the Justice Department from reviewing communications between Trump and Cohen.
The two men are not co-defendants, and they are represented by different attorneys. They are also not known to be part of a joint defense agreement.
Depending on what was discussed during the call, it could raise legal issues for Trump and Cohen.
Investigators raided Cohen’s home and office on Monday. In addition to documents of Trump’s and Cohen’s communications, investigators also obtained taped recordings of Cohen’s conversations with associates, The Washington Post reported. Trump’s advisers are said to be worried about whether the recordings touched on any matters related to the president.
Cohen’s lawyers apparently want to go over the documents and tapes and shield from prosecutors any they deem privileged. Cohen also reportedly proposed, as an alternative, that an independent lawyer review the files first.
In addition to Cohen’s lawyers, Joanna Hendon, an attorney representing the president appeared and said Trump “has an acute interest in these proceedings.”
Hendon asked the magistrate, US District Judge Kimba Wood, to have the DOJ delay looking at the records until the matter could be resolved.
“Those searches have been executed and the evidence is locked down,” Joanna Hendon, Trump’s lawyer in the case, said Friday. “I’m just trying to ensure that it’s done scrupulously.”
The FBI took the extraordinary step of raiding Cohen’s property on Monday after the Manhattan US attorney’s office received a referral from the special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia investigation. Legal experts say Mueller likely contacted the office after discovering evidence of wrongdoing related to Cohen that did not fall within his purview.
After news of the raids surfaced, The Post reported that Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud, and violations of election law.
What investigators found
When FBI agents raided Cohen’s office, they took records related to payments made to two women who claim to have had affairs with Trump. Cohen recently admitted to paying the adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, a sum of $130,000 just before the 2016 election. Meanwhile, former Playboy model Karen McDougal was paid $150,000 by the parent company of The National Enquirer, whose chief executive is close with Trump.
Investigators are said to have sought additional records related to a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape featuring Trump in an effort to determine whether, and to what extent, Cohen tried to quash damaging information about the president during the election.
The FBI also obtained warrants to seize material from Cohen’s cell phones, laptop, tablet, and a safe deposit box.
Hendon, who is representing Trump, said that because Trump is the president, “these concerns are so weighty,” and added, “there’s an appearance of fairness problem here.”
Tom McKay, the assistant US attorney who appeared in court Friday, countered Hendon’s argument that Trump deserves special consideration.
“His attorney-client privilege is no stronger than any other person who seeks legal advice,” McCay said.
Hendon also told the judge that she has conveyed her concerns about the use of a “taint team” in the Cohen raids.
A taint team is an internal group, walled off from investigators, that the government sets up when it seizes electronically stored documents with a search warrant. The team’s primary responsibility is to separate materials that are protected by attorney-client privilege to avoid later claims that the government improperly accessed the documents, according to the New York Law Journal.
The district judge on Friday postponed making a decision on Trump’s and Cohen’s lawyers’ requests until a follow-up hearing on Monday.