Michael Cohen has long billed himself as both President Trump’s personal attorney and all-purpose “fixer.”
Apparently, the lawyer part was more like a side hustle.
Cohen’s legal team declared in a court filing Monday that only about 12,000 of the documents seized from his premises by the FBI in April — about 0.3 percent of over 4 million total — should be shielded from prosecutors because they’re covered by attorney-client privilege.
Cohen, whose private business practices are being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, argued in the wake of the FBI raid that many of the documents taken should be considered private legal matters between himself and his clients. Prosecutors argued otherwise, saying Cohen had likely been “performing little to no legal work.”
But Monday’s filing reveals that after reviewing the documents, even Cohen’s own defense team believes that just a tiny sliver of the seized files deserves attorney-client privilege, said Renato Mariatti, a former federal prosecutor.
“They’re conceding the government’s point that Cohen didn’t practice law much,” Mariatti told VICE News. “If you searched and seized documents from a typical lawyer’s office, you’d expect to find a much higher percentage of privileged documents.”
“They’re going after Michael Cohen the businessman, not Michael Cohen the lawyer. And this really bears that out,” added Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York.
Immediately after the raid, a lawyer for Cohen had said millions of documents might be privileged.
“The seized materials contain thousands, if not millions, of pages of documents that are protected by the attorney-client privilege and/or the attorney work product doctrine,” Cohen’s lawyer, Todd Harrison, wrote in a declaration to the court in April.
The FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel room after prosecutors received a referral from the team of investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Since then, Cohen and others involved in the case have been carrying out parallel reviews of the files to determine which should be shielded. The judge also appointed a “special master” to form an independent view.
On June 15, Trump said Cohen was no longer his attorney, but it’s unclear exactly when that changed. Asked about Cohen during an free-wheeling, impromptu press conference on the White House lawn, Trump said: “No, he's not my lawyer — anymore.”