Rocket Docket in Michael Cohen Case as Privilege Deadline Looms

MANHATTAN (CN) – President Donald Trump, his embattled attorney Michael Cohen and the Trump Organization have a deadline of today to assert privilege over files seized by the FBI last month.

A federal judge tapped Barbara Jones of the Bracewell firm to serve as special master on privilege issues in the Michael Cohen investigation. The announcement came at a hearing on April 26 in Manhattan federal court. (Photo via Bracewell.com)

The brisk timeline, set by the former judge recently appointed as “special master” to handle the matter, indicates that Cohen’s criminal investigation will not be delayed.

“When the judge was on the bench, and at my former firm, she had a reputation for setting a brisk pace when called for, and she has certainly done that here,” said Norm Eisen, a onetime ethics czar at the White House, in an interview about special master Barbara Jones.

After her stint as a judge at the Southern District of New York, Jones worked at the Washington law firm Zuckerman Spaeder. Eisen worked there as well, going on to co-found the anti-corruption watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and serve as White House ethics czar under former President Barack Obama.

“This offers what the government hoped for: not slowing down the case,” Eisen said. “It promises the fairness Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump sought as well. Of course, once the production and review begins in earnest, we will see if the volume is such that the pace lags. But so far things seem on a very speedy track indeed.”

Speed is what U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood demanded when she appointed Jones to handle privilege issues on April 26.

“If at any point it turns out that the special master review process is going too slowly, I’ll revisit the question of the scope of the special master’s role,” Wood said from the bench.

The review is being undertaken to ensure that the FBI did not round up any privileged materials when it raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room.

Though federal prosecutors lost their bid to have their “taint team” make such determinations internally, Wood specified that she “would like the special master to have the ability to be as effective as the taint team.”

Jones updated Wood on her progress in a 4-page report Friday.

“On April 24th and April 30th, the government produced materials to the plaintiff consisting of the electronic contents of telephones and iPads,” Jones wrote. “On May 3rd, the government produced additional materials to the Plaintiff consisting of electronic copies of eight boxes of hard copy documents and the electronic content of additional telephones.”

Demonstrating her commitment to a rocket docket, Jones set a May 7 deadline for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization to make their first set of privilege assertions.

Stormy Daniels may also claim privilege if her pending motion to intervene is accepted.

“The government expects to provide all remaining materials to [Cohen] and the special master by May 11, 2018, with the possible exception of the content of certain telephones,” Jones added.

At the last hearing on April 26, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McKay revealed that the FBI seized “about a dozen” phones from Cohen, including iPhones, BlackBerrys and iPads.

“The special master will provide the court with a timeline for concluding the privilege review once she has received a larger volume of the materials to be reviewed,” Jones said. “The special master has also conferred with the parties regarding a process for resolving disputes as to privilege and will finalize that procedure after further consultation with the parties.”

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