Cohen's Team Gets Mid-June Deadline to Complete File Review
(Bloomberg) -- Michael Cohen’s lawyers says they’re working around the clock" reviewing documents seized by the FBI last month, but they still may not get their work done in time.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Wednesday gave Cohen’s attorneys until June 15 to complete a review of more than 3 million documents and electronic files to weed out privileged ones that shouldn’t be seen by the government. Otherwise, Wood said, she’ll allow Justice Department attorneys to finish the job.
That’s exactly the result Cohen, the longtime attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, hoped to avoid when he sued to prevent government lawyers from looking at communications protected by attorney-client privilege.
"I just don’t know what I’m going to do to get that done," Todd Harrison, Cohen’s lawyer, told Wood during an hour-long hearing in Manhattan, objecting to the mid-June deadline. He said his team was still trying to gain access to old Blackberry devices and was still reviewing 19 other storage devices including hard drives and thumb drives.
"I need more time than that,” Harrison said.
With prosecutors probing suspected bank fraud and other crimes, FBI agents on April 9 executed search warrants at Cohen’s office, home and hotel room, seizing eight boxes of documents along with computers, cell phones, computer storage devices and other material.
Cohen then sued to block prosecutors from using a "taint team" -- a group of government lawyers separate from the prosecution team -- to do the initial review. Wood allowed Cohen’s lawyers to do the first review under the supervision of Barbara Jones, a retired federal judge Wood appointed to speed up the process.
The government has already received over 292,000 documents and files and on Wednesday was expected to get about 1 million items taken from three cell phones. Cohen’s lawyers have flagged 252 items as privileged or highly personal.
Harrison said in court that the 15 lawyers and two data specialists working for Cohen are doing an initial review to identify privileged materials and "highly personal" items such as medical records. The team is working day and night and on weekends, sleeping on couches in the office, he said, adding that an associate had to be sent home to rest when he developed a hand tremor from the work.
In total, Harrison said they’ve gone through about a third of the 3.7 million files received from the government.
After the documents are reviewed by Cohen’s lawyers, those involving Trump or his company, The Trump Organization, are turned over to their lawyers for review.
Harrison said he could have the review completed by mid-July. After prosecutors object to a mid-July completion, Wood urged Harrison to move faster. Prosecutors said they’ve turned over much of what they seized to Jones, although the FBI is still working to access two blackberries and going through the contents of a shredding machine.
A lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who negotiated a $130,000 agreement with Cohen not to talk about her claims she had sex with Trump in 2006, also appeared at the hearing. The attorney, Michael Avenatti, told Wood he believes Cohen has a recorded conversation between Cohen and Daniels’s former lawyer that included protected attorney-client material. Avenatti said he believed Cohen, or someone in his camp, leaked the recordings to the press.
The case is In the Matter of Search Warrants Executed on April 9, 2018, 18-mj-3161, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.