Cohen Probe Restores Shredded Documents, Encrypted Messages

(Bloomberg) -- Federal prosecutors may soon get to review material that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, tried to ensure no one would ever see.

Investigators have restored 16 pages of documents found in Cohen’s shredder and recovered 731 pages of messages sent on encrypted platforms, including WhatsApp and Signal. The material is the most recent to be produced to Cohen’s legal team out of more than 3.7 million items seized in an FBI search of his home, hotel room and office in April.

The disclosures came in a letter filed by government lawyers in Manhattan federal court Friday. Later in the day, a retired judge assisting in the document review recommended extending Friday’s deadline to give Cohen’s legal team an additional 10 days to review all the material.

Barbara Jones, the retired judge who was named special master in the case, cited the “substantial progress and diligent effort" by lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the president’s company, the Trump Organization, in reviewing the documents. Jones asked U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood to give Cohen’s legal team until June 25 to complete the review. Wood said in a one-page order that she’s considering the request and will postpone the deadline until she rules on it.

In addition to the shredded papers and phone messages, prosecutors said they recovered 315 megabytes from a BlackBerry found in the search. The FBI is working to extract data from a second BlackBerry, they said.

The deadline extension comes as Cohen, under severe financial pressure, has decided to split with his current team and hire new lawyers, according to a person familiar with the case. Cohen worked with Trump for a decade and is the focus of a criminal investigation by New York federal prosecutors.

Under the procedure set by Judge Wood, Cohen’s team is doing an initial review of the files. The lawyers designate material they believe is protected by attorney-client privilege or that includes highly personal information, such as medical records. Jones reviews the designations, then makes recommendations to Wood, who has the final say.

In a May 30 hearing, Cohen lawyer Todd Harrison said Cohen’s legal team included 15 lawyers and two data specialists working day and night and on weekends, sleeping on couches in the office to try to complete the review as quickly as possible.

In an initial review of more than 292,000 items, including eight boxes of paper documents and the contents of two cell phones and an iPad, Jones said only 168 should be held back because they’re privileged or personal. Cohen’s lawyers initially suggested that “thousands, if not millions” of privileged documents had been seized in the FBI raid.

The case is In the Matter of Search Warrants Executed on April 9, 2018, 18-mj-3161, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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