This morning, during a tense hearing in room 21-B at Southern District federal court in lower Manhattan, lawyers for Donald Trump argued that some of the material seized in the raid of Michael Cohen’s office earlier this week might be subject to attorney-client privilege.
Attorney Joanna Hendon, who said she had just been retained by the president on Wednesday night, argued that Trump has an “acute interest” in the Cohen case. “These interests are so weighty … this is of most concern to him, the public a close second, and anyone in this country who’s ever hired a lawyer.” The comment about his interest having a higher priority than that of the public (represented in the hearing by several media lawyers who want the arguments to take place in open court) drew snickers from the audience. Hendon also expressed opposition to having a special master or a government “taint team” decide what becomes public. A taint team is a team of DOJ staffers who screen the seized records and separate out material that is protected by attorney-client privilege and is not shared with investigators.
Not 10 feet away from Trump’s lawyer sat Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti, who scratched his head, and later stood up to assert his belief that some of the documents seized by the FBI related to “my client.”
Hendon, who was given until Sunday at 9 p.m. to review the government’s new filing in the case and answer it, also seemed to undercut Trump’s demonization of the investigation as a “witch hunt” when she called the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan “the best prosecutors in the country.”
At one point, Judge Kimba Wood had a sidebar with lawyers to ask questions about the “factual basis for the government’s argument,” while speakers emitted a buzz to drown out their conversation and prevent it from being overheard by the several dozen reporters in the room. She said she is considering whether the transcript of that sidebar would be made public, as long as potentially innocent individuals’ names are given pseudonyms.
The circus-like atmosphere was noted by Wood, who jokingly asked to laughter: “Would anyone else like to be heard?”