Judge Kimba Wood has ruled that Michael Cohen cannot access the materials confiscated from him in an FBI raid last week, and she has yet to decide who will ultimately review the materials for privileged information that should be excluded from the case due to attorney-client privilege.
In the same hearing, it was revealed that Sean Hannity, who railed against the FBI raid against Cohen, is in fact the lawyer’s mysterious third client.
It is being reported that the current administration is now more concerned about the investigation into Cohen’s affairs than the Russia investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
What does all of this mean, and why does a talk-show host like Sean Hannity matter in the slightest?
Let’s start with Judge Wood’s decision, because it’s actually pretty complicated.
Cohen had requested that the court issue a temporary restraining order to prevent prosecutors from examining the materials confiscated during the FBI raid; he made this request so that he could go through the materials himself and remove anything that he felt qualified as ‘privileged information,’ or information that is protected by attorney-client privilege.
What that means, in essence, is that Cohen tried to get back all the information that the FBI took from him so that he could clean it up and give back only the things he feels comfortable giving to the public.
And Woods said no — to an extent.
While Cohen isn’t allowed to privately sift through the information, he will be given access to a database that Woods has ordered the government to create and which will house all the materials and information confiscated from Cohen.
In a normal case, all of those materials would be reviewed by an independent team of lawyers who are not related to or involved in the case called a “taint team,” and who are tasked with the responsibility of reviewing all the case materials from an objective standpoint to determine what is and isn’t privileged information.
Once they’ve decided which pieces of information are or are not protected, they then hand over the non-privileged information to criminal investigators and prosecutors.
While Woods has expressed her faith in the integrity of the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office and their ability to objectively handle the case, Cohen’s lawyers have strongly objected and have instead suggested that a “special master” be appointed due to the significance of Cohen’s client (the POTUS).
A “special master” is just a fancy and intimidating term for an independent lawyer who is appointed to do the same thing the taint team would, except that the special master is an individual that both the prosecution and the defense agree upon.
As of now, Woods has not chosen between the taint team and the special master, and it may be that she implements a combination.
It could be that she orders the less sensitive information be turned over to a taint team immediately and that the more sensitive information, namely everything having to do with the POTUS, be turned over to a special master for closer scrutiny.
It’s Hannity, however, who threatens to turn all of these careful machinations upside down and inside out because of his haste to disassociate himself from Cohen.
See, Hannity has claimed that, if anything, he asked Cohen for some real estate advice and that nothing he ever discussed with Cohen would have been sensitive enough to warrant the protection of attorney-client privilege.
He also went out of his way to tell listeners of his radio show Monday that none of the discussions he had with Cohen involved a third party, such as in the Stormy Daniels and Elliott Broidy cases, saying:
“Not one of any issue I ever dealt with Michael Cohen on ever — ever — involved a matter between me and any third party.”
So why is Cohen fighting so hard to get to the documents first, and why did his lawyers fight so hard to keep Hannity’s identity as the mysterious third client a secret?
They would not divulge his identity until Woods formally ordered them to, which leads many to believe that the “real estate” discussions Hannity mentioned may have been code for a whole list of possible crimes, including money laundering.
“Now, Hannity says it almost exclusively consists of real estate. In this crowd, in the New York crowd, real estate can be code for a lot of things. I mean, a lot of people launder money through Trump’s condos, right?” – Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist in an interview with DemocracyNow!
Hannity’s comments also put Cohen in a difficult situation — if his client claims that none of their exchanges were protected by attorney-client privilege, what motivation or justification could Cohen have for trying to conceal those exchanges?
The other issue, of course, is an ethical one.
Hannity has long been an opponent of the investigations into the current administration, and recently voiced vehement disapproval of the FBI’s raid on Cohen.
The problem is that he never disclosed that he had a relationship to Cohen, and therefore the president, that may have colored his opinions.
Fox News, however, doesn’t seem to think that anything is amiss in the case, and has extended their full support to Hannity in the wake of the revelations.
Check back in for continued coverage of this story from Iron Triangle Press.