Trump petitions court to keep attorney-client privilege debate secret

PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks to the Rose Garden of the White House, June 6, 2018.Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump walks to the Rose Garden of the White House, June 6, 2018.

If the FBI seized items from Donald Trump’s former personal attorney that fall under the attorney-client privilege relating to Donald Trump or the Trump Organization, the president doesn’t want the government or the public to know what they are, according to a new court filing.

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Judge Kimba Wood of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York appointed a “special master” to determine which materials seized in the FBI’s April raids of Michael Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and safety deposit box could be used in court by prosecutors.

In a letter to Judge Wood filed late Wednesday, Trump’s attorney Joanna Hendon petitioned the court to allow her to submit her objections to the special master’s findings under seal.

“The submissions at issue will disclose matter pertaining to privilege and to the grand jury investigation,” Hendon wrote. “Sealing is therefore appropriate.”

PHOTO: A courtroom sketch of U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood during a federal court hearing in New York, April 16, 2018.Elizabeth Williams/AP, FILE
A courtroom sketch of U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood during a federal court hearing in New York, April 16, 2018.

In a reply letter filed Thursday afternoon, federal prosecutors argued that sealing of documents - submitted by Cohen, President Trump or the Trump Organization - should be restricted to “any limited section that refers specially to the substance of the contested documents.”

“The Government does not object to those sections being filed at this time under seal,” the letter from Acting US Attorney Robert Khuzami reads.

But the government contends in its letter that a complete sealing is unnecessarily restrictive.

“There is no reason why the Government and the public should be deprived of access to the balance of the filing - such as the law upon which Cohen and the Intervenors rely, or their legal analysis to the extent it does not directly describe the substance of the documents in question,” the government’s letter states.

PHOTO: Michael Cohen, a longtime personal lawyer and confidante for President Donald Trump, leaves the United States District Court Southern District of New York on May 30, 2018 in New York City.Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images, FILE
Michael Cohen, a longtime personal lawyer and confidante for President Donald Trump, leaves the United States District Court Southern District of New York on May 30, 2018 in New York City.

The review of roughly 3.7 million electronic files is being carried out simultaneously by Jones and lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization.

The special master, former federal judge Barbara Jones, has so far reviewed nearly 300,000 items seized in the raids and has designated 162 items as privileged or partially privileged and rejected three items Cohen, President Trump or the Trump Organization wanted to be deemed privileged.

President Trump has until June 11 to challenge any of the determinations made so far by Jones.

The judge has set a deadline of June 15 to complete the review of all of the items seized in the raids. After that, the judge said a neutral "taint team" of prosecutors would make determinations about any outstanding materials.

Materials reviewed by the special master and attorneys for Cohen and Trump and not designated as privileged will be turned over to federal prosecutors who are building a criminal case against Cohen. Cohen is not currently facing any charges but its under suspicion for what prosecutors have described as a criminal probe involving his business interests.

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