Michael Cohen had asked the court to give his lawyers first look at the seized materials [Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]
A US judge indicated she would not grant a request by President Donald Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen to review materials seized by the FBI before prosecutors can see them.
Judge Kimba Wood said on Monday she would consider appointing an outsider lawyer to help vet the materials, in a court session during which Fox News host Sean Hannity was unexpectedly outed as Cohen’s client.
Cohen appeared in the Manhattan court to ask a judge to limit the ability of federal prosecutors to review the documents seized from him last week, when federal investigators raided his office and home.
Cohen and Trump had asked the court to give his lawyers first look at the seized materials so they could identify documents that were protected by attorney-client privilege.
Failing that, they wanted the court to appoint an independent official known as a “special master”, a role typically filled by a lawyer, to go through the documents and electronic data seized under a warrant and decide what prosecutors can see.
Prosecutors have asked that the seized documents be reviewed to identify those covered by attorney-client privilege by a “filter team” of lawyers within their office, who would be walled off from the main prosecution team.
Wood, who did not issue a ruling on the request yet, said she believed the prosecutors’ “integrity is unimpeachable” and said employing a filter team was “a viable option”.
But she added that “a special master might have some role here”, to ensure the perception of fairness.
Cohen’s lawyers disclosed in a court filing on Monday that the lawyer had at least 10 clients in 2017 and 2018, and that he did “traditional legal tasks” for three of them, including Trump, Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy and a third who asked not to be named.
Wood ordered Cohen’s lawyers to disclose the name of his third legal client, Fox News presenter Sean Hannity.
The vocal Trump supporter had never mentioned his involvement with Cohen and last week called the FBI raid an “all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States”.
Responding to the revelation, Hannity on Monday called his dealings with Cohen a “minor relationship” and said he had asked questions that “focused almost exclusively on real estate”.
He also said he had never received an invoice or paid legal fees for the lawyer’s services.
Last week’s raids came after a “months-long” investigation of possible crimes related largely to Cohen’s business dealings, rather than his work as a lawyer, prosecutors have said.
A person familiar with the raids said last week that the information FBI agents were seeking included information about payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels.
Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in 2016 as part of an agreement for her to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump before he became president.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies