Michael Cohen's lawyers accuse Stormy Daniels' attorney of 'drive-by shooting' in bank record dump

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen was in federal court in New York on Wednesday.
  • A hearing was held related to evidence seized by the FBI in connection with a criminal probe of Cohen.
  • The attorney is being eyed for business dealings, as well as for a hush-money payment given to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives at federal court in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.
Peter Foley | Bloomberg | Getty Images

An attorney for Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, on Wednesday accused porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney of an "intentional, malicious and prejudicial" release of Cohen's bank records.

Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan, accused the porn star's representative, Michael Avenatti, of staging a "drive-by shooting of my client's rights" by releasing the information.

Avenatti responded to Cohen, saying he and his client "did not do anything improper relating to the release of any information concerning Mr. Cohen."

The Trump-Russia ties hiding in plain sight

The comments were made in Avenatti's presence in Manhattan federal court, as part of a case currently sorting out which materials seized from Cohen in FBI raids last month are protected by attorney-client privilege.

The judge in that case, Kimba Wood, adjourned the Wednesday hearing after setting a June 15 deadline for Cohen's team of lawyers to complete their review of the seized materials. If the lawyers miss that deadline, Wood said a separate group of government lawyers, known as a "taint team," will take over to review the remainder.

Lawyers for Cohen said that about 3.7 million files in total needed to be evaluated for privilege status, and that they had thus far reviewed about 1.3 million of them.

Avenatti, a California-based lawyer, is attempting to represent Daniels in the New York case involving Cohen. Lawyers for Cohen have argued that Wood should not permit Avenatti to intervene in this instance. Ryan, in opposing Avenatti's request for admission, noted the lawyer has made 170 media appearances in recent months.

Cohen appeared in court Wednesday, though he said nothing during the proceeding aside from inaudible whispers to his lawyers.

Earlier in May, Avenatti published a report alleging payments made to Cohen's company, Essential Consultants, from large corporations including telecommunications giant AT&T and drug company Novartis, among others. Those companies both said in subsequent statements that they paid Cohen's company.

Lawyers for Cohen had questioned in a previous court filing how Avenatti could have obtained the information, which appeared to be drawn from bank records known as "suspicious activity reports."

"Mr. Avenatti has published some information that appears to be from Mr. Cohen's actual bank records, and Mr. Cohen has no reason to believe that Mr. Avenatti is in lawful possession of these records," the filing said.

Ryan, in court on Wednesday, called Avenatti's conduct reckless, intentional and malicious.

"I've never seen an attorney conduct himself the way Mr. Avenatti conducted himself," Ryan said. "What Mr. Avenatti did in releasing those records was entirely improper," he added.

Avenatti alleges audio recordings leaked

In an earlier tweet on Wednesday, Avenatti suggested that Cohen is leaking "illegally recorded conversations" related to Daniels.

Avenatti tweet

At the U.S. district courthouse on Wednesday, Avenatti said he was contacted recently by a reporter with a recording he believes was made by Cohen.

"From what I understood there were audio recordings" between Cohen and Daniels' former lawyer, Keith Davidson, "regarding attorney-client privilege," Avenatti said.

Davidson was Daniels' attorney at the time she received $130,000 from Cohen through Essential Consultants as part of a nondisclosure deal barring her from discussing an alleged affair with Trump from years earlier.

After the payment, which was made a few weeks before the 2016 election, Trump reimbursed Cohen in 2017, according to his financial disclosure form. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is now suing Trump and Cohen to void the hush deal.

Ryan did not deny that such audio tapes existed, but appeared to cast doubt on Avenatti's accusation that a tape had been leaked.

"If we had released the audiotape to a reporter, it would have been the biggest story," Ryan said.

After the hearing, Avenatti said outside the courthouse that Ryan "admitted that there are audio recordings that Michael Cohen was taking," and that they not only exist but "are under lock and key."

Avenatti called on Cohen and his attorneys to release the alleged recordings to Congress and the public.