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." Peter Weber
President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has dropped libel lawsuits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over last year's publication of a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, Politico reports. Among its other allegations, the dossier claims Cohen "secretly [met] with several Russian Presidential Administration (PA) Legal Department officials" in Prague in August 2016 and that he is "heavily engaged in a cover up and damage limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of Trump's relationship with Russia being exposed."
Cohen has repeatedly denied going to Prague, tweeting in January 2017 after the publication of the dossier that he had never visited the Czech city "in my life." McClatchywrote a week ago that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has "evidence that … Cohen secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign," adding that if their reporting is true, "it would … be one of the most significant developments thus far in [Mueller's] investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House." Cohen replied by tweeting again "no matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague."
Cohen is also wrapped up in a suit brought by adult film star Stormy Daniels, and pursuing the libel case "could have [made it] difficult for Cohen to convince that judge to put Daniels' case on hold while Cohen continued to press civil suits in other federal courts," Politico writes.
In a statement, Cohen's attorney David Schwartz said: "We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen's rights was — and still remains — important. But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits." Jeva Lange