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Special master in Michael Cohen case finds few privileged items in initial review of files

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
Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives at federal court in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.

A court appointed watchdog in the case of President Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, released an initial report Monday which found that relatively few documents in an initial tranche of documents that were seized from Cohen in a raid met the standard of being subject to attorney client privilege.

The priviliged documents will not be turned over to federal prosecutors in New York who are conducting a criminal investigation of Cohen. The 51-year longtime lawyer for Trump is under scrutiny for various business dealings, as well as a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

In a report to the court, Special Master Barbara Jones said Cohen's lawyers and Trump's lawyers had identified 17 items in an initial group of eight boxes that they believed to be privileged or partially privileged, out of 639 total. Of those 17, Jones agreed with them on 14 of them, and rejected the claim of privilege on the other three.

Among the contents of two phones and one iPad, Jones reports that Cohen's lawyers had flagged 156 items out of a total of more than 290,000 as either privileged, partially privileged, or highly personal. In this case, Jones agreed with the Trump Organization's and Cohen's attorneys.

From the report:

1. Contents of Eight Boxes of Hard Copy Materials:Out of 639 total items consisting of 12,543 pages, the Special Master agrees with the Plaintiff and/or Intervenors and finds that 14 items are Privileged and/or Partially Privileged.The Special Master also finds that 3 items are not privileged.

2. Contents of Two Phones and an iPad: Out of 291,770 total items, the Special Master agrees with the Plaintiff and/or Intervenors and finds that 148 items are Privileged and/or Partially Privileged and that 7 items are Highly Personal.

This review represents only a fraction of the total documents seized in the April 9 raid of Cohen's office, home and hotel room, which included computer hard drives that are expected to contain hundreds of thousands more files.

Immediately following the raid, lawyers for the Trump Organization and Cohen voiced concerns that an unknown number of the files could be protected by attorney client privilege, and they objected to a special team of prosecutors being assigned to review the files for privilege.

While Jones is not finished with her review, Monday's report seems to weigh against the initial concerns expressed by Cohen's attorneys, that a potentially large number of documents would be privileged.