Stormy Daniels rips Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen after court hearing deals blow to president and his fixer

Key Points
  • Michael Cohen attended a court hearing today after his property was raided by FBI agents last week.
  • He skipped the initial hearing on Friday, in which his lawyers argued that they should be the first ones to review whether the seized materials were protected by attorney-client privilege.
  • A lawyer for President Trump argued in a Sunday filing that the president should be the first to review the materials.
Stormy Daniels statement outside NYC courthouse
Stormy Daniels statement outside NYC courthouse

Porn star Stormy Daniels tore into President Donald Trump's lawyer at a federal court hearing Monday, saying he has long played by a "different set of rules, or should we say no rules at all."

"For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law," Daniels, wearing a lilac suit and jet black tights, said outside a lower Manhattan U.S. District courthouse.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Cohen and Trump to void a nondisclosure agreement barring her from discussing an alleged tryst with Trump from more than a decade earlier.

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he and his client attended the hearing out of concern that none of the documents seized in raids on Cohen's property last week be tampered with or destroyed.

Avenatti also had choice words for Cohen, who negotiated the $130,000 hush payment to Daniels a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen is "radioactive," and "anybody associated with him in the last 20 to 30 years should be very, very concerned," Avenatti said.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, speak to the media after a hearing related to Michael Cohen.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Avenatti's attack followed a blow from Judge Kimba Wood, who rejected an attempt by lawyers for Cohen and Trump to get first crack at reviewing materials seized in a series of FBI raids on Cohen's property last week.

The so-called temporary restraining order would have allowed lawyers for Cohen to decide which of the documents and communications were inadmissible in court before the prosecuting attorneys could review them.

Both Cohen and Trump argue that swaths of the materials — seized from Cohen's residence, hotel room, office, safety deposit box and electronic devices on Monday — are protected by attorney-client privilege.

But the prosecuting attorneys suggested in an earlier filing that Cohen's proposal for the appointment of a separate judge called a special master to review the material was tantamount to a slow-walk in the case.

"My interest is in getting this moving speedily and efficiently," Wood said at the hearing.

Still, she said a special master "might have a role here," though she did not decide on whether or not to appoint one at the Monday hearing. Wood also held off on appointing a so-called taint team — a separate team of federal lawyers who would review the materials — in the case, though she appeared more amenable to the option.

"I have faith in the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office. Their integrity is unimpeachable," she said. "I think that a taint team is a viable option."

A big reveal

In a stunning revelation, Cohen's lawyer was forced to reveal in court that an unnamed recent client of Cohen's was none other than Fox News talk show host, Sean Hannity.

In a court filing that morning, Cohen's lawyers said that Cohen had three clients between 2017 and 2018, but only named two: Trump, and former Republican National Committee official Elliott Broidy.

Broidy recently resigned from the GOP organization after news outlets revealed that Cohen negotiated a hush deal worth $1.6 million with an ex-Playboy model who said she was impregnated by Broidy.

The third client was anonymous. Lawyers for Cohen refused to identify Hannity, saying in the document that it was "likely to be embarrassing or detrimental to the client."

But although Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, argued at length to keep Hannity's name hidden, Judge Wood would not relent.

"The client is a publicly prominent individual," Ryan said, before offering to give Hannity's name to Wood in a sealed envelope. The suggestion drew an objection from another party in the courtroom, who said that except in limited cases, attorney-client privilege did not relate to the identities of clients.

Wood agreed, and said the client's name "must be disclosed now."

After some more argument, Ryan said, "The client's name involved is Sean Hannity."

The admission drew audible gasps from the audience.

Questions of privilege

The prosecuting attorneys pushed back hard on Cohen and Trump's arguments that they should be the first parties to review which of the seized documents were protected by attorney-client privilege.

U.S. attorney Thomas McKay repeatedly objected to the request, saying they would use such a process to delay the case for months, if not years.

"He's going to hide behind overbroad claims of privilege," McKay said of Cohen.

In a Friday court filing, prosecutors said they already conducted searches of Cohen's email accounts, which had not been reported until that point. The searches "indicate that Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged with President Trump," the prosecutors said.

In the same filing, counsel for the Trump Organization said it considers "each and every communication by, between or amongst" Cohen, the organization and its employees to be protected by attorney-client privilege.

The materials seized from Cohen in the raids comprise up to 10 boxes of printed documents and more than two dozen electronic devices, including cell phones.

Todd Harrison, a lawyer for Cohen, noted that the case involved information seized from "the sitting president of the United States' personal attorney" as part of his objection to handing the materials to a taint team before Cohen.

"The stakes are too high," Harrison said.

Joanna Hendon, a lawyer for Trump, argued that the president should be the first to review the documents.

She acknowledged that "it will take a long time" for Trump and his team to screen the materials, but noted that "this is an extraordinary case."

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