Few documents 'privileged' in Michael Cohen case, as ex-Trump lawyer's sit down with Al Sharpton signals new 'direction'

  • A watchdog reviewing documents seized from President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen by the FBI has found that just a tiny fraction of all of those items should be withheld from prosecutors because of attorney-client privilege.
  • Cohen confirmed in a tweet Friday that he has met with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the New York City activist and MSNBC host, a day after posting another tweet that backed the freedom of the press — which his ex-client Trump routinely attacks.
  • Barbara Jones, the court-appointed special master in Cohen's case, in a court filing said that out of more than 887,000 documents seized from Cohen in April, just 4,085 items have been designated privileged by Cohen's and Trump's legal teams.
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City, June 20, 2018.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City, June 20, 2018.

A watchdog reviewing the nearly 900,000 files and other items seized from President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen by the FBI has found that just a tiny fraction should be withheld from federal prosecutors because of attorney-client privilege.

Meanwhile, Cohen in a tweet Friday indicated he has met with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the New York City activist and MSNBC host. A day earlier, Cohen posted another tweet that backed the freedom of the press — which his ex-client Trump routinely attacks.

Lanny Davis, one of Cohen's new lawyers, declined to comment about anything relating to the ongoing criminal probe of Cohen by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Davis referred such questions to Cohen's new criminal defense attorney, Guy Petrillio, who did not immediately respond to a message from CNBC.

But Davis added, “Rev. Sharpton is an old friend and a steadfast supporter of progressive causes."

"That fact that Michael Cohen also welcomes Rev. Sharpton's support should say a lot about the direction that he's moving in," Davis said.

There has been widespread speculation in recent weeks that Cohen would seek a deal with prosecutors, and potentially begin cooperating with them in an investigation of third parties, such as Trump.

Few privileged files

Barbara Jones, the court-appointed special master in Cohen's case, in a court filing Wednesday said that out of more than 887,000 documents seized from Cohen in April, just 4,085 items were designated as privileged by Cohen's and Trump's legal teams.

The remaining items, or more than 883,000 files, were turned over last week to prosecutors.

Jones said she has determined that just 2,633 items flagged by Cohen and Trump's lawyers are actually privileged or partially privileged, while the remaining 1,452 items are not.

Jones' report, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, said Cohen's team objected to the designation of "not privileged" for 22 of the items, "but has advised the Special Master that he will not raise these objections with the Court."

"Accordingly, all 1,452 items that have been designated 'not privileged' will be promptly released to the Government," Jones wrote.

Prosecutors will be able to use non-privileged items to continue their probe of Cohen, and possibly use against him at any trial that results.

Cohen, who has not been charged with any crimes, is being investigated for his business dealings, as well as for a $130,000 payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels since has said the payment was in exchange for her agreeement to keep quiet about an affair she claims to have had with Trump in 2006. The White House has denied that Trump had sex with Daniels.

Cohen, who last year said that he was "the guy who would take a bullet for the president," in recent weeks has signaled being less likely to put Trump's interests ahead of his his own and his family's.

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told ABC News in an off-camera interview detailed earlier this month.

“I put family and country first.”

On Monday, Trump sparked a storm of bi-partisan criticism by refusing to condemn Russian leader Vladimir Putin for what American intelligence agencies have said was Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, who was meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with Putin, suggested that Putin's denial of such meddling was due the same amount of credibility as the findings by U.S. intelligence.

Cohen, in a tweet on the same day as Trump's comments, put himself at odds with his former boss.

On Thursday, in another tweet, Cohen quoted legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite's on the value of a free press, even as Trump continued making references to "Fake News, which the president says is "the real enemy of the people."

After Cohen confirmed Sharpton's tweet about their meeting on Friday, Sharpton tweets that he has known Cohen for decades, and that the lawyer used to "broker meetings between Trump and I when were fighting."