President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is trying to get special treatment — like really, really special treatment.
In a move that prosecutors and legal experts believe to be entirely unheard-of, Cohen wants his counsel to review the materials the FBI seized from his home, office, and hotel room earlier this week as part of a criminal investigation into his business dealings. The FBI was reportedly seeking information on Trump’s "Access Hollywood" tape and payments to Stormy Daniels. Cohen then wants his attorneys to re-release the documents they see as “responsive, non-privileged items” back to prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors for the Office of the Southern District of New York who are overseeing the investigation called that request “extraordinary” in court documents on Friday. They cheekily noted Cohen would need to create a new law that converts a search warrant, which allows law enforcement to take what they want, into a subpoena, which places the burden to turn over documents on the recipient.
A federal magistrate judge, however, granted the FBI a search warrant because she believed they would probably find evidence of a crime.
“Cohen advances the novel proposition, without any precedent or legal basis, that Cohen’s own counsel should undertake the initial review of the returns of lawfully executed search warrants,” the federal prosecutors wrote. “The USAO [U.S. Attorney’s Office] is aware of no precedent for such an unconventional practice.”
“You could imagine there are a lot of drug dealers in the south side of Chicago who would love to have that right. But that’s not how it works.”
“This Court should not accept Cohen’s invitation to make new law and convert a duly authorized search warrant into a subpoena,” they continued.
For Cohen to pick and choose what materials his team sees as “responsive” to the search warrant would allow him to essentially dictate the investigation, according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
“You could imagine there are a lot of drug dealers in the south side of Chicago who would love to have that right,” Mariotti said. “But that’s not how it works.” He added there was virtually no chance a judge would accept Cohen's request.
For his part, Cohen claims the prosecutors’ search was overbroad and that the government seized “thousands and thousands of privileged documents” his team should be able to review.
But federal prosecutors have incessantly dismissed that theory and said they found close to no evidence that Cohen did enough legal to work to produce the volume of paperwork Cohen claims. They’ve also implemented a third-party “filter team” or “taint team” to analyze and exclude privileged documents from being shared with investigators.
“The results of that review, as reported by the USAO’s Filter Team, indicate that Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged with President Trump,” prosecutors wrote in Friday’s filing.
Cover image: Michael Cohen in New York on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)