Judge appoints special master to vet Michael Cohen's seized documents

Michael Cohen in federal court
(Image credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

In federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, Judge Kimba Wood named a special master, or natural arbiter, to go through the files and devices the FBI seized from lawyer Michael Cohen two weeks ago, and set up a framework for the process of vetting the materials before federal prosecutors get a chance to see them. Kimba choose Barbara Jones, a former federal judge, saying that Jones "has committed 90 percent of her time" to being special master "and perhaps more if needed." She gave Jones and Cohen's legal team about four weeks to simultaneously review the seized documents, but warned that "if at any point it turns out that the special master review process is going too slowly, I'll revisit the question of the scope of the special master's role."

Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal lawyer and fixer, had requested a special master. Prosecutors dropped their objection in a filing Thursday in which they also cited Trump's Fox & Friends call-in Thursday morning as evidence that very few of the documents will be shielded by attorney-client privilege. Trump told Fox & Friends that Cohen had performed just a "tiny, tiny little fraction" of the president's legal work, and also that "he represents me with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal," contradicting Trump's earlier assertion that he was unaware Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to stay quite about her purported affair with Trump.

Since both Trump and the second of Cohen's three clients, Sean Hannity, said Cohen did little or no legal work for them, "the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here," prosecutors wrote. "The prosecutors' speedy incorporation of Trump's Fox interview into legal documents provided a vivid illustration of the strategic downsides of the president's media interviews and off-the-cuff remarks and tweets," The Washington Post notes, "and why lawyers urge their clients to limit public commentary about ongoing legal matters."

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