For United States District Judge Kimba M. Wood, who was once considered for Attorney General but was then forced to withdraw her name in the swirl of the so-called “nannygate” scandal, this week has marked a return to Washington’s special brand of high-stakes showdown, only in a new role — arbiter.
Wood is presiding over the federal case filed by Cohen and joined by Trump to keep federal prosecutors from reviewing documents and other records seized last week from Cohen’s office, home, hotel room and safe deposit box on grounds of attorney-client privilege. Court documents revealed that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months.
On Monday, the veteran jurist denied Cohen and Trump’s request to review the trove of materials ahead of prosecutors and did so amidst the spectacle of a brewing Washington scandal. Monday’s courtroom drama included an appearance by adult film star Stormy Daniels, who has alleged a one-night tryst with Trump before he was president and a $130,000 hush payment from Cohen, evidence of which was seized in the raid, according to sources.
Wood drew the Cohen case after decades on the federal bench, where legal experts said she has distinguished herself.
“She is highly respected, smart, and doesn’t suffer fools,” said Gerald Shargel, a recently retired Manhattan criminal defense lawyer who handled several matters before Wood during his 40-year career. “She’s the real deal.”
Wood said that while everything she did was legal, she felt that under the circumstances accepting the post of Attorney General or being in consideration for it would be inappropriate.
Before Baird’s nomination, no male candidate for Attorney General had ever been asked about the legal status of their household help during confirmation hearings, according to multiple reports.
“The Republicans were eager to find any vulnerabilities in Clinton nominees in 1993,” said Riley. “Sensitivities were heightened because Clinton was billing himself as a new kind of Democrat with a new way of doing business, running against twelve years of Republican rule.” Riled added: “When there were any foibles found in a nominee, they were a very rich target.”
During Wood’s vetting process, the White House also discovered she had briefly trained as a Playboy bunny when she was a student in London in 1966 and feared it might become a distraction, according to the New York Times. After a week training as a croupier at the Playboy casino, “she quit because she thought the gig was silly,” the New York Daily News reported.
Legal experts told ABC News that Wood’s intelligence and legal chops have rarely been questioned.
“She has rock solid knowledge of criminal law,” Shargel said.
“She is respected by the lawyers who argue in front of her, and beloved by her fellow jurists,” agreed legal analyst and ABC News’ consultant Dan Abrams who has covered a number of Wood’s cases.