NEW YORK >> Back in April, President Donald Trump seemed poised for a fight over files seized from his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
“Attorney-client privilege is dead!” he tweeted. Lawyers for Cohen asked a judge to prevent prosecutors from immediately looking at the documents and devices confiscated by the FBI.
So far, though, a court-ordered review of the seized material has been less a battle than a congenial slog.
Barbara Jones, the former federal judge appointed as a “special master” to referee any disagreements over attorney-client privilege, is nearly finished with her work and to date the lawyers for Cohen and the Republican president have yet to contest any of her decisions.
According to court filings, she already has given prosecutors access to more than 3.5 million of the 4 million seized electronic communications, recorded conversations, videos and other items taken in the April 9 raid.
Lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization designated 12,000 documents as privileged and confidential. As of Thursday, Jones had gone through 9,000 of those files and largely split her decisions: She said 3,600 didn’t qualify as privileged or highly personal.
The Trump and Cohen legal teams have the ability to challenge Jones’ decisions before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood. So far, they have not.
“Mr. Cohen and his counsel are extraordinarily grateful to the special master and her firm for the painstaking care and clear direction she provided to keep this process on track, efficient and on time,” Todd Harrison, a lawyer for Cohen, said in a court filing. Harrison said some of the devices belonged to Cohen’s daughter, son and wife or only contained family videos and other highly personal materials.
Trump Organization lawyer Alan Futerfas has also praised the process, saying: “Everyone has been working very well together.”
Prosecutors have said publicly that they are investigating possible fraud in Cohen’s business dealings but haven’t disclosed details. He has not been charged.
The lack of any serious fighting over potentially sensitive private documents could be the result of all sides deciding they would rather not have their disputes aired in public.
Early on in the case, when lawyers for Cohen were trying to keep the names of his clients private, Judge Wood forced them to reveal in open court that one of them was Fox News commentator Sean Hannity.
Wood has said any legal challenges would be public, though the subject matter could remain secret to protect the confidentiality of materials that might ultimately be deemed privileged.
Jones reports her progress publicly in the Manhattan court file, most recently Thursday, when she said she had most recently looked at another 1,846 items designated as privileged and agreed that 1,314 of them are and another one is highly personal. She rejected 531 privilege designations.
Jones also revealed that her law firm’s legal bill for the month of June was $367,761, an amount that reflects a team of lawyers working seven days a week to go through all the material.