Lawyers for President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen have asked a federal judge to consider four candidates to review material seized by the FBI that may be protected by attorney-client privilege, rather than let prosecutors look at it first.
In a Tuesday night letter to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, Cohen’s lawyers said the candidates, all former federal prosecutors in Manhattan, could serve as a “special master” to review boxes, hard drives and electronic equipment taken in the April 9 raid of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room.
Courts often retain special masters who are independent of the parties to handle various matters. Wood has not decided whether to appoint one for the Cohen case, and prosecutors are expected to propose their own list on Wednesday.
Wood’s decision on who can review the materials will have a bearing on how much prosecutors might be about to learn about Cohen’s dealings with Trump and others.
The April 9 search was conducted partly on a referral by the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
Lawyers for Cohen and Trump have said they should be able to review the seized materials for possible attorney-client privilege, while prosecutors have said they want their own “taint team” to handle the review.
The special master candidates proposed by Cohen’s lawyers were: Bart Schwartz, the chairman of Guidepost Solutions LLC; Joan McPhee, a partner at the firm Ropes & Gray; Tai Park, a partner at Park Jensen Bennett; and George Canellos, a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.
Canellos previously served as co-director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division.
Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels, has said he believes some seized materials may relate to a $130,000 payment made to her by Cohen, in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual relationship she claims to have had with Trump in 2006.
Attorney-client privilege shields the communications of the subject of a lawsuit or criminal case with legal counsel.
Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, and possible campaign law violations in connection with the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and perhaps other matters related to Trump’s campaign, a person familiar with the probe has said.
Reporting by New York Newsroom; Editing by Will Dunham