According to POLITICO, attorneys for President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, were unsuccessful in attempting to persuade a federal judge that materials seized by federal investigators are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Instead, the judge ordered Cohen to produce a list of his clients, which would become part of the public record.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Friday ordered attorneys for Cohen to hand over a list of Cohen’s law clients and proof of their relationship by 10 a.m. Monday, so she can decide whether materials seized from Cohen’s office by federal law enforcement agents last week should be protected by attorney-client privilege.
Federal prosecutors have charged that Cohen’s list of clients is miniscule -- if not limited to solely Donald Trump -- and have claimed that a review of “multiple different email accounts” obtained prior to the raid of Cohen’s home and office revealed that Trump’s attorney is barely practicing law:
“The results of that review ... indicate that Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged with President Trump,” assistant U.S. attorney Thomas McKay and other prosecutors wrote.
“Cohen’s claim that he has confidential communications with multiple clients appears to be exaggerated. For example, Cohen has told at least one witness that he has only client — President Trump,” prosecutors wrote.
“Cohen apparently rarely emailed with President Trump, and has identified no other clients with whom he has an attorney-client relationship,” they said.
Cohen’s attorneys, on the other hand, have taken issue with the seizure of their client’s records because they say it “contain thousands if not millions of documents that are protected by attorney-client privilege.”
In the end, Wood ordered Cohen’s legal team to produce a list of Cohen’s clients by Monday morning.
ThinkProgress reports that just before the 10 a.m. deadline Monday morning, Cohen’s lawyers supplied the court not with a list of his clients but a letter explaining why the list would not be forthcoming.
This morning, Cohen responded to Judge Wood’s order with a letter filed with the court shortly before the 10 a.m. deadline, in which he declared that he would not provide the names of any clients that weren’t already publicly available.
Cohen said he worked at Estrin & Associates from 1991 to 1995, and had “numerous clients” during that time. From 1996 to 2006, Cohen said he worked in his own private legal practice, serving “hundreds of different clients.” Then, in 2006, Cohen joined Phillips Nizer LLP, where he represented about 15 clients. In all these cases, Cohen declined to disclose the identities of these clients, but claims that the materials seized by the government could include information from this time period.
From 2007 to 2017, Cohen said he only worked for Donald Trump and the Trump organization.
From 2017 to 2018, Cohen said he was back in private practice and had only 10 clients. Seven of those were not legal clients and Cohen didn’t disclose their names. Two of the remaining three clients were Donald Trump and Elliot Broidy. Cohen’s relationship with Broidy was disclosed last week by the Wall Street Journal, which reported that Cohen helped negotiate a $1.6 million hush money agreement between Broidy, a top Trump fundraiser, and a Playboy Playmate who he impregnated.
Cohen refused to reveal the identity of the third legal client because the client “directed Cohen not to reveal the identity publicly.”
Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, argued that the case of Vingelli v. Drug Enforcement Agency, which grants protection to client names under “special circumstances”, applies in this case.
Vingelli defines those circumstances as when a disclosure would implicate the client in a crime, or when it would be “tantamount to revealing a confidential communication.”
Without citing any case law, Ryan goes on to argue that Cohen’s case is the most “special” because “federal prosecutors have seized data and files of the personal attorney of the President of the United States.” He goes on to call the search of Cohen’s office the product of “the most highly politicized search warrant in the history of American jurisprudence.”
The next part of the letter gets to the real reason Cohen seems averse to sharing his client list:
The letter goes on to say that revealing the identities of Cohen’s clients would be “embarrassing” to them. This goes to the heart of the matter. Cohen has seemingly specialized in silencing women through threats and cash payments. Being included on a list of Cohen’s clientele is embarrassing. That doesn’t mean, however, that Cohen has a legal right to withhold the names.
Cohen is due back in court Monday afternoon.