- Brendan McDermid/Reuters
- The special master Barbara Jones ruled on Thursday that 1,452 documents labeled as privileged by President Donald Trump, his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, or the Trump Organization are not privileged.
- Cohen, who finds himself at the center of a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York, is not challenging her decision in court.
The special master overseeing the document review in the federal criminal investigation into President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen ruled on Thursday that more than 1,400 documents seized by the government and labeled as privileged by Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization are not.
And though Cohen objected to the special master’s ruling on a minuscule number of those documents, he isn’t challenging the decision in court.
Because he is not doing so, the documents will be turned over to prosecutors and able to be used in a potential prosecution of Cohen.
In a Thursday court filing to US District Judge Kimba Wood, the special master, Barbara Jones, ruled that of 4,085 items recently designated as privileged by Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization, 2,633 were either privileged or partially privileged. The remaining 1,452 were not, she ruled.
Cohen objected to her ruling on 22 of those items but opted against challenging the ruling to Wood.
Cohen is the focus of a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York into whether he violated campaign-finance laws, committed bank fraud or wire fraud, engaged in illegal lobbying, or participated in other crimes. The FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office in April, seizing more than 4 million documents from Trump’s longtime lawyer.
At the center of Cohen’s troubles is a $130,000 hush-money payment he facilitated weeks before the 2016 presidential election to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to keep her from talking about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump. The FBI sought documents related to that payment and other similar agreements with other women.
Trump, Cohen, and the White House have denied that an affair took place. Originally, Cohen said Trump did not reimburse him for the payment. In May, Trump acknowledged that he did.
Right now, the documents obtained by the FBI are the focus of the investigation.
In April, Cohen and his lawyers successfully argued for the appointment of a special master, allowing them, Trump’s attorneys, and the Trump Organization to identify documents protected by attorney-client privilege that could not be used in a potential prosecution. Jones, a retired federal judge, was appointed to oversee the review and determine which documents labeled as privileged by those three parties are, in fact, privileged.
So far, Cohen has claimed privilege on a tiny fraction of the total number of items obtained by the government, with Jones ruling that an even smaller number actually are privileged.
Last month, Jones reported that she had reviewed the first 300,000 documents and determined that just 162 were privileged. She disagreed with Cohen, Trump, and the Trump Organization on three, and they did not object to her ruling. Jones later amended her ruling to place one of those 162 documents under further consideration.
Later in June, Cohen’s attorneys laid out in a filing that they claimed privilege on more than 12,000 documents. Jones’ review of the privilege designations is ongoing.