Prosecutors investigating Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, are in possession of millions of items seized by the FBI, according to the latest report by the special master reviewing the materials for privilege, as the probe enters a new and uncharted phase.
The report, issued by former Southern District Judge and Bracewell LLP partner Barbara Jones, also indicates prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York can expect to see more documents seized during the April search warrant executed on the lawyer’s home and office.
Based on a review of filings in the matter before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, approximately 3.2 million items have so far been released to prosecutors by Jones, as part of the ongoing privilege review process.
In her latest report to Wood, posted July 13, Jones said nearly 884,000 new items not designated privileged at some level or highly sensitive were released to the government—with more potentially coming.
Jones noted that she has received as of the July 5 deadline set by Wood designations from the Trump Organization over an outstanding batch of nearly 23,000 items produced by Cohen’s legal team at McDermott Will & Emery. It was unclear from Jones’ letter just how much of those items have made it into the government’s hands, but, in stating to Wood that her review of “the remaining items is ongoing,” Jones makes clear there’s more to come from her team.
Even so, the end of this process, initiated by Cohen over concerns the government seized material that was protected by attorney-client and work-product privilege, is in sight. Additional filings with the court have detailed the legal changing of the guard for Cohen. McDermott partner Todd Harrison asked Wood in a July 10 letter for permission to provide a copy of the seized material to Cohen’s new attorney, Petrillo Klein & Boxer name attorney Guy Petrillo. The request was granted.
According to reports, Petrillo—along with another recent hire, Washington, D.C.-based attorney and public relations expert Lanny Davis—were brought on in anticipation of prosecutors moving into the next phase of their investigation, which would mean likely charges against Cohen. But just how that aspect of the investigation proceeds is uncertain.
Cohen has made public statements recently in which he appears to have distanced himself from Trump, leading to speculation he may be preparing to cooperate with prosecutors.
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told George Stephanopoulos during an interview made public on July 2. “I put family and country first.”
Former federal prosecutors, however, have cautioned against jumping to conclusions, regardless of what Cohen’s intentions now may be. Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler partner Harry Sandick served as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan for six years. He said that, unlike many criminal defendants, Cohen has a lot of information about what the government’s investigation is looking for, as well as what they actually captured during the execution of the search warrant.
This could go far in establishing quickly both what wrongdoing Cohen would have to admit to as part of any cooperation agreement, as well as the level of believability he needs to reach for prosecutors to consider him worthy of any kind of deal.
A more important issue, however, is what, if anything, Cohen can offer prosecutors. The most speculated-on possibility would be information useful to the ongoing investigation by Special Master Robert Mueller into possible coordination between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians meddling in the 2016 elections. That would still require Manhattan prosecutors to work with their counterparts in Washington, D.C., to coordinate.
“It’s certainly possible that if he has something that’s useful for Mueller, he could do that for a Southern District of New York investigation,” Sandick said.
Cohen’s attorney Petrillo could not be reached for comment.