In legal theory, justice is blind. In the investigation into President Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, it might be getting a little impatient, Judge Kimba Wood indicated Wednesday.
During a hearing in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court, Wood said she was unhappy with the pace at which documents recovered from a raid on Cohen’s office are being turned over to the federal government so that federal investigators can determined if any of Cohen’s actions have violated the law, NBC News reported.
“It is important for the court to balance the slow, deliberate needs of those who are asserting attorney-client privilege with the need for an investigation to go forward,” Wood said, according to The New York Times.
As a result, Wood set a deadline of June 15 for lawyers representing Trump, Cohen and the Trump Organization to sift through the massive mountain of records confiscated by the FBI to determine which were private or privileged and which could be given to the government. The records include both electric and physical files, as well as documents prosecutors are trying to piece together from a shredder in Cohen’s office.
Cohen’s attorneys had sought a July deadline for sifting through the records to ensure that no documents violating attorney-client privilege or privacy would be part of any ongoing investigation.
Wood added that if the pace does not pick up, she will order all the documents turned over to the government to let federal officials make the call.
Todd Harrison, representing Cohen, said the legal team was “moving heaven and earth” to process materials.
He said that Cohen’s lawyers have reviewed 1.3 million of the 3.7 million items given to them by federal officials.
Special Master Barbara Jones, who is reviewing the materials Cohen or Trump want kept private, said of that total, only 252 have been declared private privileged.
Prosecutors have turned over most of what the FBI confiscated to the attorneys representing Cohen so the lawyers can determine what is and is not privileged. However, they are still trying to access the contents of two BlackBerry devices and put back together what was found in the shredder. They believe it will take two or three additional weeks to reconstruct those shredded documents.
The basis for the action against Cohen is a reported $130,000 payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels that came shortly before the 2016 election. As noted by The Washington Post, the federal raids on Cohen were also linked to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged, and as yet unproven, collusion with Russia during the election.
Wednesday’s hearing was about more than procedure. Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels who is not licensed to practice in New York State, sought to enter the case, a bid that was opposed by Stephen Ryan, representing Cohen.
He noted that Avenatti has given more than 170 interviews on the case, including 74 to CNN.
“He is involved in ways that call attention to himself,” Ryan said. “This is about the aggrandizement of a single attorney and his client.”
Wood did not rule on Avenatti’s motion, but said he would have to stop what she called his “publicity tour.”
“This conduct is inimicable to giving Mr. Cohen eventually a fair trial,” she said. “You will not be permitted to use this court as a platform.”
Faced with what was clearly a choice between arguing before the court or the cameras, Avenatti later withdrew his motion to be formally attached the case, allowing him free reign to continue to comment outside of court.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.