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600 Michael Cohen documents not privileged, special master rules

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Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen.
Jeenah
Moon/Reuters


  • Special master Barbara Jones ruled Tuesday that more
    than 600 documents labeled privileged by President Donald
    Trump, his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, or the Trump
    Organization are not.
  • The ruling isn’t being challenged in court.
  • The news comes after the revelation of 12 audio
    recordings the FBI seized from Cohen — over which Trump’s
    attorneys waived privilege claims.

The special master overseeing the document review in the federal
criminal investigation into President Donald Trump’s former
lawyer Michael Cohen ruled on Tuesday that more than 600
documents seized by the government and labeled as privileged by
Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization are not.

Cohen isn’t challenging the decision in court, meaning the
documents will be turned over to prosecutors and able to be used
in a potential prosecution of Cohen.

In a Tuesday court filing to US District Judge Kimba Wood, the
special master, Barbara Jones, ruled that of 1,262 items recently
designated as privileged by Cohen, Trump, or the Trump
Organization, 595 were either privileged or partially privileged.
The remaining 665 were not, she ruled.

Cohen objected to her ruling on two 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 to keep her from talking about
her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump, which Trump has
denied. The FBI sought documents related to that payment and
other similar agreements with other women.

Right now, the documents
obtained by the FBI are the focus of the investigation


Donald Trump
Donald Trump.
Mark
Wilson/Getty Images


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
.
Jones, a retired federal judge, was appointed to oversee the
review.

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 week, Jones ruled that
more than 1,400 of roughly 4,000 documents labeled as privileged
by Cohen, Trump, or the Trump Organization were not. In that
instance as well, Cohen opted against challenging the ruling in
court.

Last month, Jones reported
that she had reviewed the first 300,000 documents
and determined
that just 162 were privileged
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.

Tuesday’s news comes a day after Jones announced in a court
filing to Wood that privilege claims were withdrawn over 12 audio
tapes seized from Cohen. A source close to Trump’s legal team
said the president’s lawyers moved to withdraw the claims.

As a result, those tapes were handed over to the federal
investigators probing Cohen.

The Cohen tapes

One such tape seized by the FBI from Cohen features a
conversation between him and Trump in which the two
discussed payments made to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal,
whose story of an alleged affair with Trump was purchased by The
National Enquirer for $150,000 in August 2016..

The outlet never published the piece. That practice is known as
“catch and kill,” and it effectively silenced McDougal’s
allegations. David Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., which
publishes the National Enquirer, is a longtime friend of both
Trump and Cohen. Citing a person familiar with the
recording, The Washington Post reported
Friday
 that Cohen and Trump discussed a
plan to purchase the rights to McDougal’s story from Pecker’s
company for about $150,000.

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed to The
Times that Trump discussed payments to McDougal with Cohen, but
he said that ultimately no payment was made. Giuliani said the
recording was less than two minutes long, and that there was no
indication based on it that Trump knew of the payment to American
Media Inc. beforehand.

Giuliani said the tape was “powerful exculpatory evidence”
favorable to Trump. But a person with knowledge of the tapes told
Business Insider that Cohen’s team is “mystified” as to how these
recordings could possibly be beneficial to Trump.

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