Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, was present in court on Monday, after being ordered by a federal judge to show up for hearing stemming from an FBI raid on his properties last week.
Cohen and his attorneys sought to prevent federal prosecutors from examining materials seized by the FBI during the raid. The office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has been conducting a criminal investigation related to Cohen’s business dealings.
Cohen’s communications with Trump and Cohen’s other clients were also reportedly seized by the FBI. Both Cohen’s and Trump’s lawyers have asked a judge to block the Justice Department from reviewing the confiscated materials, due to concerns about attorney-client privilege. The judge denied that request on Monday.
Stormy Daniels, the porn star who Cohen paid $US130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement over Daniel’s claim that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, was also in court. She was not a party to the proceedings on Monday, but photographers stumbled all over themselves to get pictures of her.
Scroll down to see how the scene played out in front the Manhattan courthouse:
FBI agents reportedly collected 10 physical boxes of evidence from Cohen’s properties during their raids last week, according to NBC investigative reporter Tom Winter. Authorities were able to copy electronic files, such as hard drives, on the spot.
Cohen has since argued that his legal team needs to examine the seized evidence so they can determine which ones are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Also present at the hearing was adult film actress Stormy Daniels and her bombastic attorney, Michael Avenatti. They have a separate case against Cohen.
Avenatti, who is locked in a legal battle to void a $US130,000nondisclosure agreement between Daniels and Cohen, denied that his client’s presence was meant to provoke Cohen.
“It’s intending to send a message that this is a very, very serious matter for her, and she wants to make sure that the American people know that she’s behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as possible,” Avenatti reportedly said.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, also gave a statement after the hearing.
“Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law, he has considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump’s fixer,” Clifford said. “He has played by a different set of rules or should we say no rules at all. He has never thought that the little man, or especially women or even more women like me, matter. That ends now.”
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, arrives at federal court in the Manhattan surrounded by a gaggle of photographers.
Her claim that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, shortly after Trump’s third wife, Melania, give birth to their son, sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Clifford puts her shoe back on after passing through a security screening at federal court. The reflections of multiple photographers can be seen in the window.
Judge Kimba Wood denied a request from Cohen’s and Trump’s attorneys to block federal prosecutors from reviewing materials confiscated from Cohen, but ordered prosecutors to give copies to Cohen’s lawyers.
Cohen’s attorneys then argued for the court to appoint a special master, an independent official to examine and decide which seized materials could be released to Justice Department officials.
Meanwhile, prosecutors advocated for a “taint team” comprised of their own lawyers to examine the files and determine which should be deemed protected under attorney-client privilege. The taint team’s lawyers would originate from the prosecutor’s offices, however, they would be separated from the prosecution team.
During the hearing, Cohen’s attorneys were forced to reveal the identity of one of Cohen’s clients, Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity.
Following the bombshell disclosure, Hannity sought to distance himself from Cohen in a series of tweets.
“Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter,” Hannity wrote on Twitter. “I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective.”
Unlike Hannity, Cohen’s other two legal clients – Trump and Elliott Broidy, the Republican fundraiser for whom Cohen helped negotiate a $US1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model – allowed themselves to be identified as Cohen’s clients.
Hannity received criticism after the revelation, due to his monologues on his show – in which he railed against the FBI’s raid on Cohen’s properties – without noting that he was one of his clients.
“In response to some wild speculation, let me make clear that I did not ask Michael Cohen to bring this proceeding on my behalf, I have no personal interest in this proceeding, and, in fact, asked that my de minimis discussions with Michael Cohen, which dealt almost exclusively about real estate, not be made a part of this proceeding.” Hannity said onTwitter.
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