Trump's Cohen Comments Raise Questions About Relationship - NBC4 Washington
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Trump's Cohen Comments Raise Questions About Relationship

A New York judge said Thursday that she was appointing a former Manhattan federal judge to help determine what materials seized in FBI raids on Cohen are subject to attorney-client privilege



    Trump's Cohen Comments Raise Questions About Relationship
    Getty Images, File
    President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen (left) and President Donald Trump

    What to Know

    • Trump said weeks ago that he had no knowledge of a $130,000 payment Michael Cohen made to Stormy Daniels

    • Cohen is under federal criminal investigation in New York into his personal business dealings and a civil case filed by Daniels in LA

    • "This is going to add considerable momentum to our effort to depose the president," Daniels' attorney said

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that personal attorney Michael 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 porn star who claims she had sex with the president in 2006.

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

    Trump's remarks prompted fresh questions about his relationship with 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 Trump when he makes off-the-cuff statements about the case in interviews and on Twitter.

    In a call-in interview with "Fox & Friends," Trump spoke about his relationship with Cohen, saying the lawyer handles "a tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work, then added: "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."

    Trump Calls Cohen Raid 'Disgraceful'

    [NATL] Trump Calls Cohen Raid 'Disgraceful'

    President Donald Trump said the federal raid on the office of his attorney, Michael Cohen, was "disgraceful" and part of a "witch hunt." He also mulls whether he should fire special counsel Robert Mueller and brings up Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

    (Published Friday, April 13, 2018)

    Cohen paid Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 days before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. He now faces a series of legal actions, including an effort from Daniels to invalidate the nondisclosure deal. There's also a criminal investigation of Cohen in New York, which prompted the recent FBI raid.

    Prosecutors said the April 9 raids resulted from a criminal fraud investigation. Sources have told NBC News that federal agents used it to search for information about the payment Cohen made to Daniels.

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

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

    Sean Hannity Named as Cohen's Third Client

    [NATL] Sean Hannity Named as Cohen's Third Client

    Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, appeared in court Monday to argue that some documents seized during an FBI raid should remain private. In court it was revealed that Cohen's previously undisclosed third client is Fox News host Sean Hannity. Hannity denied hiring Cohen as his lawyer 'in a traditional sense.'

    (Published Monday, April 16, 2018)

    Judge Kimba Wood said Thursday that 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 Cohen's lawyers agreed that a "special master" was the best way to determine which materials should or shouldn't be off-limits to federal investigators.

    Michael Avenatti, Daniels' attorney, asked the court for permission to be part of the case to determine if there are any materials showing that Daniels' previous lawyer, who negotiated her confidentiality agreement, violated attorney-client privilege in communications with Cohen. The judge gave prosecutors time to review the motion after Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McKay told her that so far there was "really no evidence" that Cohen received privileged information about Daniels.

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

    Avenatti tweeted that Trump and 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."

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

    Avenatti told the AP 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."

    'Late Night': A Closer Look at Trump's Mounting Scandals

    [NATL] 'Late Night': A Closer Look at Trump's Mounting Scandals

    Seth Meyers takes a closer look at the scandals piling up around President Donald Trump, from his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.

    (Published Tuesday, April 24, 2018)

    Cohen is also dealing with a civil case filed by Daniels, who is seeking to invalidate the confidentiality agreement she signed before the election. He said Wednesday that he would assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination in that case. Daniels is also suing Cohen, alleging defamation.

    Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.