By Brendan Pierson
NEWYORK (Reuters) – A court-appointed official has finished reviewing which materials seized from U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen can be used in a criminal investigation, according to a court filing on Thursday.
Lawyers for Cohen and Trump had said that some of the seized materials were protected by attorney-client privilege, which would stop prosecutors from using them. Barbara Jones, a former federal judge, had been tasked with vetting those claims of privilege.
The end of Jones’ review came about two weeks after CNN reported that Cohen was willing to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance about a June 2016 meeting involving his son and a Kremlin-connected lawyer, which Trump has denied. The report, along with public statements by Cohen, has raised the possibility that Cohen might seek a plea deal and cooperate with Mueller against the president.
Cohen has not been charged with any crime.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating him for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, a person familiar with the investigation has told Reuters. The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that prosecutors were also probing whether Cohen committed tax fraud in relation to his taxi-medallion business.
The investigation stems from a referral from Mueller, who is looking into possible coordination between Trump 2016 campaign aides and Russia. Trump has said there was “no collusion” with Russia and repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt.”
Out of more than 4 million items seized by authorities in raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April, fewer than 8,000 have been deemed privileged by Jones, according to court filings. Cohen’s and Trump’s lawyers had sought to shield several thousand additional items from prosecutors’ review, but will not dispute Jones’ findings in court, the filings said.
Lawyers for Cohen and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)