Trump attorney Michael Cohen under criminal investigation

Lawyer who allegedly arranged Stormy Daniels payoff ‘hiding behind attorney client privilege’

US president Donald Trump’s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

US president Donald Trump’s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

 

Michael Cohen, an attorney for US president Donald Trump, has been under criminal investigation for months, federal prosecutors disclosed in a filing in Manhattan federal court in Friday.

Prosecutors said the investigation focuses on Mr Cohen’s “own business dealings” rather than his work as an attorney. The filing came in response to Mr Cohen’s effort to block prosecutors from reviewing documents seized in searches of his home and office on Monday.

At a hearing in Manhattan federal court, assistant US Attorney Tom McKay accused Mr Cohen of trying to hide behind a legal doctrine known as attorney-client privilege to avoid disclosing materials related to the president and other cases.

Mr Cohen’s lawyers asked US District judge Kimba Wood at the hearing to let them review the seized materials to ensure that there was no violation of attorney-client privilege, which permits clients to shield communications with their lawyers.

Uncertainty over exactly what Federal Bureau of Investigation agents seized from Mr Cohen comes as Mr Trump faces an intensifying investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether his presidential campaign colluded with Russia.

“The attorney-client privilege can’t at the same time be used as a sword [and] as a shield,” Mr McKay told Ms Wood. “What they are trying to do is use attorney-client privilege as a sword to challenge the government’s ability to review evidence” obtained lawfully, Mr McKay added.

The materials seized could include claims by Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Mr Trump in 2006. She wants to be freed from a non-disclosure agreement under which she was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about that encounter shortly before the 2016 presidential election. – Reuters