Michael Cohen: 16 mobile phones seized in FBI raid of Trump lawyer's home, office and hotel room

Seizure described as 'bigly bad' for US president's longtime legal fixer

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 27 April 2018 11:14 BST
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Donald Trump says Michael Cohen was representing him on 'crazy Stormy Daniels deal'

As many as 16 mobile phones were seized by the FBI when agents raided Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel, a prosecutor has revealed.

Thomas McKay, who is leading the criminal investigation of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, told a judge the law enforcement agency was on track to hand over copies of all seized materials to Mr Cohen’s lawyers by 11 May.

He said the FBI had already turned over the contents of four phones and an iPad, and that the agency had “about a dozen left”, according to the New York Post.

Two BlackBerrys were among the devices seized, suggesting Mr Cohen was hoarding old devices.

A lawyer for Stormy Daniels described the revelation as “bigly bad” for Mr Trump’s legal fixer. Ms Daniels, who is suing Mr Cohen for defamation after he called her a liar, was paid $130,000 in hush money by Mr Cohen over allegations she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006.

“Most interesting fact from today’s hearing IMO [in my opinion] - FBI imaged 16 (by my count) cell phones and blackberries seized in MC [Michael Cohen] raids,” Michael Avenatti wrote on Twitter.

“Usually not a good sign when the target appears to have saved old phones and there are that many phones recovered. BIGLY bad... for many.”

On Thursday, Mr Trump claimed Mr Cohen handles very little of his legal work, but did represent him in the "crazy Stormy Daniels deal," a rare presidential public reference to the alleged affair.

Prosecutors in New York quickly claimed Mr Trump's early-morning comments buttress their arguments that not much of the material the FBI seized from Mr Cohen should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Within two hours of Mr Trump's interview, the prosecutors submitted papers in court citing his comments.

Stormy Daniels' attorney predicts Michael Cohen to be charged

Mr Trump's remarks prompted fresh questions about his relationship with Mr Cohen in the tangle of legal dealings involving the president, his legal fixer and the porn star. And they served as just the latest demonstration of the potential legal risks for the president when he makes off-the-cuff statements about the case in interviews and on Twitter.

In a call-in interview with Fox & Friends, Mr Trump spoke about his relationship with Mr Cohen, saying the lawyer handles "a tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work, adding: "Like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal he represented me. And, you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this which would have been a problem."

Mr Cohen is facing a series of legal actions, including an effort from Ms Daniels to invalidate the $130,000 nondisclosure deal. There is also a criminal investigation of Mr Cohen in New York, which prompted the recent FBI raid.

Mr Trump has previously denied any knowledge of the payment. The White House has consistently denied the affair.

While Mr Trump may have increased the chances that his communications with Mr Cohen on the subject of Ms Daniels are subject to attorney-client privilege by acknowledging that he was being represented by Mr Cohen on the matter, he may also have undermined arguments that large quantities of other seized materials are subject to the privilege by claiming Mr Cohen handled little of his legal work.

Either way, said trial attorney Joseph Cammarata, he would be better off speaking less.

"The more you say, the more you have an opportunity to be cross-examined on it," said Mr Cammarata, who represented Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton. "You can't get hurt by words you don't speak."

Judge Kimba Wood said on Thursday she was appointing a former Manhattan federal judge to help determine what materials seized in the FBI raids are subject to attorney-client privilege. The judge noted that the government and Mr Cohen's lawyers agreed that a "special master" was the best way to determine which materials should or should not be off-limits to federal investigators.

Mr Avenatti asked the court for permission to be part of the case to determine if there are any materials showing that Ms Daniels' previous lawyer, who negotiated her confidentiality agreement, violated attorney-client privilege in communications with Mr Cohen.

The judge gave prosecutors time to review the motion after Mr McKay told her that so far there was "really no evidence" that Mr Cohen received privileged information about Ms Daniels.

Mr Trump's comment that Mr Cohen represented him in the Ms Daniels matter seemed potentially at odds with his past denial of knowledge about the payment.

Mr Avenatti tweeted that Mr Trump and Mr Cohen "previously represented to the American people that Mr Cohen acted on his own and Mr Trump knew nothing about the agreement with my client, the $130k payment, etc. As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false”.

Mr Trump's anger over the case has increased in recent weeks as the legal pressure on Mr Cohen mounts. While the president is said to be increasingly worried about the materials seized in the raid and whether Mr Cohen would consider cooperating with prosecutors, he insisted Thursday that the probe was related to Mr Cohen's business and said "I've been told I'm not involved."

Mr Avenatti said on Thursday: "This is going to add considerable momentum to our effort to depose the president and place him under oath in an effort to discover which version of the facts is accurate."

Additional reporting by AP

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