Federal prosecutors in New York have introduced a new element in the case surrounding the FBI’s April raids on the properties of President Donald Trump’s long-time personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen — encrypted messages.
In a court filing Friday afternoon, authorities revealed that the FBI has recently accessed a trove of encrypted data stored on Cohen’s phones.
“The Government was advised that the FBI’s original electronic extraction of data from telephones did not capture content related to encrypted messaging applications, such as WhatsApp and Signal,” the government’s filing reads. “The FBI has now obtained this material. There are approximately 731 pages of messages, including call logs, which were also produced today.”
The court filing offers no information about the content of the messages or how authorities managed to obtain them. Prosecutors also divulged in a letter to the court that they had completed the reconstruction of 16 pages of documents recovered during the raids from a shredding machine.
“The government’s disclosure of the reconstruction of shredded documents and 731 pages of encrypted messages will add to the pressure on Cohen and the worries of the many who have communicated with him,” said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. Attorney in Miami.
Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Following the raids, Cohen told ABC News “I just want my stuff back,” while Ryan released a statement arguing that the seized documents included “the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney-client communications” and slammed the government’s tactics as “wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities.”
Cohen has not been charged with any crime, but he is under investigation for potential criminal violations surrounding his personal business dealings and his $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. She has alleged a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied her allegations.
This new development arrives amid a period of uncertainty in Cohen’s legal defense. Earlier this week, sources told ABC News that Cohen’s lawyers are expected to leave the case in the near future.
For the past two months, attorneys for Cohen have been racing to review more than 3.7 million items seized in searches of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. Under the supervision of a retired federal judge acting as a “special master,” the files are being scrutinized by Cohen’s attorneys for items potentially covered by attorney-client privilege.
Last month, US District Court Judge Kimba Wood gave Cohen’s legal team a June 15 deadline to complete their review of materials they had received through the end of May. Any items they were unable to review, Judge Wood said, would be turned over to an independent government “taint team” to complete the examination of the files.
Cohen’s current attorneys, Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison, will no longer represent him once the document review is complete, according to a source familiar with the matter, who cited concerns about payment of legal fees as one of the reasons for the change. A replacement counsel has not been identified.
Friday’s filing indicates that the government and Cohen’s lawyers have agreed to a June 25 deadline for Cohen’s team to examine the new material, which also includes new data recovered from a Blackberry that the FBI had only recently been able to access. According to the government’s filing, Cohen’s lawyers have now received for their review everything seized in the raids, except for the contents of one additional Blackberry device.
Judge Wood, late Friday, indicated that she was considering the proposal for the June 25 deadline, but she has not yet issued a ruling.