If Michael Cohen bought his shredder on special discount, he’s likely going to harbor deep regrets about not shelling out the extra $50 for an upgrade. At a Wednesday court hearing in New York, federal prosecutors requested more time from U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood as they piece together the shredded contents seized when the FBI executed a search warrant on the premises of Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime fixer and personal attorney. NBC writes:
Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood that they’d turned over most of the materials seized during the April 9 raids of Cohen’s office and Park Avenue hotel room to Cohen’s legal team, with the exception of two BlackBerry devices and the shredded documents.
Prosecutors explained, however, that they would need two to three more weeks to finish reconstructing what was in the shredder, and that they were still trying to access the BlackBerrys.
The hearing was a high-drama affair. Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti reportedly received a dressing down from the judge and he later withdrew his motion to intervene in the criminal proceedings in New York (remember: Daniels’ civil case in L.A. is a separate matter).
But Cohen’s team also took a beating as they vied for more time to sift through materials for attorney-client privilege before turning them over. Judge Wood wasn’t impressed by Cohen attorney Todd Harrison’s appeal that they were moving “heaven and earth” to expeditiously review the material, with one of his associates developing a “tremor” from lack of sleep.
Don't be distracted by Avenatti sideshow. The news was judge rejecting Cohen demand 4more time & setting 6/15 deadline for Cohen to complete privilege review, after which USAO taint team will review the files that remain. An indictment is coming fast, & can a flip be far behind? https://t.co/LkSyy1UGbv
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 30, 2018
That means the Cohen team’s submissions for attorney-client privilege claims must be sent to special master Barbara Jones by the mid-June deadline so she can determine whether those claims should be justifiably kept shielded from federal prosecutors. Anything Cohen’s team fails to review by then will be turned over to the taint team for review.
Jones, for her part, has already reviewed and released more than 292,000 materials to federal prosecutors and expected to release a million more by Wednesday. And remember Cohen’s attorneys originally claiming that something on the order of “thousands, if not millions” of seized documents would fall under attorney-client privilege?
Jones noted that so far, only 252 items had been flagged as privileged by attorneys for Trump or Cohen…
Roland Riopelle, a former federal prosecutor for the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, told Business Insider the puny number of designated documents is telling.
“For a person who claims to be a lawyer, the minuscule amount of allegedly privileged matter is surprising, and what it tells us is that Cohen wasn’t acting as a lawyer very often,” Riopelle said. “He was doing something else.”
One final tantalizing detail from Wednesday included Avenatti claiming that at least one Cohen recording had emerged that included the voice of Donald Trump.
“I know for a fact Donald Trump is on at least one of these recordings,” Avenatti told MSNBC’s Ari Melber, though he declined to say how he knew that was the case or whether he had heard the recording himself.
“Donald Trump is on one of the recordings—at least one of them. I know that for a fact. I stand behind it,” Avenatti repeated under questioning.
“Would you describe that as something you have personal knowledge of?” Melber asked.
“Yes,” Avenatti responded.
Avenatti also believes the former attorney for his client, Keith Davidson, is on the tapes discussing material with Cohen that should have fallen under attorney-client privilege.
Avenatti told Melber he received a call from a reporter last week alleging that such a recording existed, that the reporter had heard it, and requesting comment on it. Avenatti expressed shock at the revelation and noted that he “asked the court to inquire about it.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, Avenatti told Judge Wood he believed the leaked recording must have come from Cohen because the only other possible sources would be the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office. Courthouse News Service writes:
“I don’t believe for one moment, your honor, that either one of those two organizations or entities provided that info to that reporter,” Avenatti added. “I’d be shocked.”
Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, disputed the suggestion that his client could have leaked such materials.
“The audio tapes that we have, if any that pertain to him, [are] under lock and key, they are controlled by my law firm,” Ryan said. “I am unaware of any release of an audio file of this kind.”
Avenatti took that as an admission that the recordings do indeed exist. Stay tuned.