President Donald Trump’s lawyers argued in a new court filing Sunday against the FBI search of Michael Cohen’s records, and sided with the former Trump Organization lawyer’s legal team to make sure confidentiality to his legal clients hasn’t been breached.
The President’s attorneys called the federal searches of Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and cellphones last Monday “an operation disquieting to lawyers, clients, citizens, and commentators alike.”
The Sunday night filing places the President directly in opposition to the wishes of one of the most significant US attorney’s offices in the Justice Department. Instead, Trump backs his business colleague, who finds himself amid a months-long criminal investigation.
The filing marks the first time the President’s legal representatives have waded into an ongoing criminal matter, an unusual but not unheard-of situation for past administrations.
Trump’s newly enlisted lawyers from the firm Spears & Imes in New York, who stepped into the case Friday, largely support the same stance as the President’s longtime personal attorney, Cohen, who is asking a judge to prevent federal investigators from using information seized without his review.
The federal prosecutors – operating out of Manhattan to investigate Cohen’s business dealings and separately from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion – have said they would use a different set of government lawyers to review the materials seized.
That walled-off group, called a “taint team,” would look for possible breaches of confidentiality regarding Cohen’s interactions with his legal clients, commonly called attorney-client privilege, and prevent the Manhattan prosecutors from seeing that material.
Trump’s lawyers say any rush to review the documents for privilege “makes clear that the taint team will not zealously protect the President’s privilege.”
The Department of Justice announced Friday that Cohen had been “under criminal investigation” for months in New York relating to his business dealings.
CNN reported Friday that the FBI seized recordings Cohen made of his conversations with a lawyer representing two women who had alleged affairs with Trump, according to a source familiar with the matter. Cohen is under scrutiny in part for his role in seeking to suppress an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels through a hush deal. The warrant sought information about that payment along with any information that connected Cohen with efforts to suppress the disclosure of Trump’s alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Trump and Cohen’s lawyers attempted to block federal prosecutors from using some of the records they obtained during the raid and filed a temporary restraining order.
CNN’s Kara Scannell and Julia Jones contributed to this report.