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President s lawyers on Sunday night asked a federal judge to temporarily block prosecutors from reviewing files seized by the FBI from Trump's long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen — and to allow the president to get the first crack at determining which documents can permanently be withheld because of attorney-client privilege.
The request came a day before Cohen is due to appear in federal court in New York City on his own request to have his attorneys determine what material should be kept out of prosecutors' hands due to client confidentiality.
Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she was paid $130,000 by Cohen in exchange for keeping quiet about having sex with Trump in 2006, also plans to be at that hearing Monday. The White House has denied Daniels had an affair with Trump.
Files related to the payment to Daniels were among the items seized last Monday by the FBI from Cohen's home, office and hotel room as part of a months-long criminal probe. The United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York is handling the investigation of Cohen, on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion by the Trump presidential campaign with Russians.
Trump's attorneys for Cohen's case say they are worried that the age-old rule that protects the confidentiality of conversations between lawyers and their client is at "grave risk" because of the seizure of Trump-related records.
Trump's lawyers in their letter Sunday to Judge Kimba Wood said they object to prosecutors' plan to use a "taint team" to review the files seized from Cohen.
A taint team is made up of prosecutors not connected to the case.
They would be responsible for segregating privileged information, which should not be shown to prosecutors in the case, and give them the rest as potential evidence against Cohen and other people.
"To our knowledge, no court in this Circuit has ever forced a privilege-holder, over his objection, to rely on government lawyers to protect his attorney-client privilege as to materials that were seized from his own lawyer's office," wrote Trump's lawyer, Joanna Hendon.
She also wrote: "In the highly politicized, even fevered, atmosphere that envelops this matter, it is simply unreasonable to expect that a team of prosecutors, even if not directly involved in the investigation of Mr. Cohen, could perform a privilege review in the manner necessary to safeguard the important interests of the President, as the holder of the privilege."
"For the reasons detailed below, the Court should enter an order enjoining the government from proceeding with any review of the seized materials, and directing the government to provide a copy of the seized materials to Mr. Cohen so that our firm and the President may review for privilege those seized documents that relate to him."
Hendon asked Wood to enjoin prosecutors from using a taint team to conduct an initial review of the files, order prosecutors to give Cohen a copy of all the materials they seized, and then direct Cohen's legal team to identify all Trump-related files and give a copy to the president's legal team.
Hendon further asked that Wood direct Trump's legal squad to identify for the taint team all material over which the president claims privilege, and allow the taint team to raise any objects to those claims with the judge.
Hendon then wants the taint team to be barred from giving prosecutors in the case any material that ends up being deemed privileged.