Federal judge to hear from Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti in Cohen case
Michael Avenatti (Photo: Screen capture)

Adult film star Stormy Daniels’ attorney is expected to ask a federal judge on Wednesday to address claims that President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, leaked audio recordings seized from Cohen in raids of his home and office to news media outlets.

The issue was among several slated to come up in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan, who is also expected to get an update on a review of materials federal agents seized in the April raids.

Cohen, who has not been charged with any crime, is under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan regarding his business dealings.

The investigation stems in part from a referral by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia. Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion, and Russia has denied interfering in the U.S. presidential elections.

Cohen has worked for Trump for more than a decade, first as counsel at the Trump Organization and later as his personal lawyer.

In 2016, Cohen paid Daniels $130,000. Daniels has said the payment was intended to buy her silence about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006. The president has denied the allegation.

Daniels’ outspoken attorney, Michael Avenatti, said in a letter last week that he had reason to believe that Cohen had leaked audio recordings, which he said may relate to his client, to media outlets. Avenatti asked that Wood ask Cohen about the possible leaks.

Avenatti has also asked Wood to allow him to represent Daniels in the Cohen case. He has said he believes some of the seized materials could relate to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Cohen has asked Wood to deny Avenatti permission to appear before the federal court, saying he violated court rules by making what he characterized as false statements about Cohen in frequent news media appearances.

After the raids on Cohen’s home and office, Cohen and Trump asked the judge to block prosecutors from reviewing the seized documents, citing attorney-client privilege.

Wood responded by appointing former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones as a so-called special master to review whether any of the documents were shielded by attorney-client privilege before turning them over to prosecutors.

In a court filing on Tuesday evening, Jones said she had already turned over to prosecutors more than 290,000 seized items that were not marked privileged by Cohen or Trump.

She said that more than a million items from three seized phones had also been designated as not privileged by Cohen and Trump, and would be turned over to prosecutors Wednesday after a final review.

Cohen and Trump have made at least 252 claims of privilege, according to the filing.

A number of Cohen’s financial dealings since Trump’s January 2017 inauguration have become public.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG has said it had paid Cohen nearly $1.2 million as a consultant; U.S. telecommunications company AT&T Inc said it made payments of $600,000; and South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd said it hired him for $150,000.

Cohen also received $500,000 from Columbus Nova Llc, a New York company linked to Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg. The firm has said the transaction had nothing to do with Vekselberg.

Mueller’s investigation, which began in May 2017, has yielded 17 indictments and five guilty pleas so far.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis