Special Master Finishes Cohen Privilege Review

A federal judge tapped retired colleague Barbara Jones of the Bracewell firm to serve as special master on privilege issues in the Michael Cohen investigation. (Photo via Bracewell.com)

MANHATTAN (CN) – The former judge appointed to make  attorney-client privilege determinations on items seized from President Donald Trump’s embattled former fixer Michael Cohen said Thursday her job is done.

The FBI seized roughly 4 million files that the from Cohen’s apartment, office and hotel room on April 8, pursuant to a warrant for an unspecified fraud investigation.

Cohen filed a lawsuit to protect materials that he claimed qualified for attorney-client privilege. Trump and the Trump Organization later joined as intervening parties.

In late April, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood appointed her retired colleague Barbara Jones as special master to oversee the privilege review.

Jones has filed five updates since that time and her sixth report issued Thursday concludes the review process.

Jones’ final report notes that of the 4,808 items that were designated privileged and/or highly personal by Cohen and Trump, Jones agreed that 1,972 items are privileged, 285 are highly personal, and 3 are partially privileged.

The special master also said 2,558 items that were determined to be “not privileged” and/or “not highly personal” have been handed over to the government.

“With these recommendations and the following procedures set forth in the special master’s report dated May 29, 2018, the special master has concluded her review,” the report states.

Jones issued her first report on May 11, in which she explained that she was receiving government files on an “expedited and rolling basis.” She agreed with the vast majority of Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization’s privilege assertions, save for three files that she said were not privileged.

Picking apart the contents of two phones and an iPad, Jones found that only 148 out of 291,770 total items were privileged in whole or in part. She withheld another seven items as highly personal.

In late July, Jones released 12 audio files to the government following privilege waivers by Trump and Cohen, the same day the New York Times offered a tantalizing glimpse at one secret recording.

That same month, a September 2016 tape was made public, in which Cohen alludes to a hush money deal involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier.

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani insisted that the recording was “powerful exculpatory evidence.”

Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis threw barbs at Trump online regarding the tapes, tweeting, “Truth is once again on @MichaelCohen212 side. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump used the word cash, despite @RudyGiuliani falsely accusing Mr. Cohen. Just as Richard Nixon learned, tapes don’t lie!”

Jones’ final report was issued on the 44th anniversary of Nixon’s televised resignation.

Attorneys representing Cohen and Trump did not immediately respond Thursday to requests for comment.

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