A judge has rejected Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s requests to vet documents seized by the FBI, before prosecutors are allowed to see them.
However, officials would not be allowed to immediately view documents seized during raids on Mr Cohen’s office, home and hotel room, Judge Kimba Wood ruled at a federal court in New York.
Instead, she indicated that an independent lawyer could be appointed to check for records protected by attorney-client privilege, possibly with specific regards to Mr Cohen’s communications with the US president. .
Prosecutors argued that they will not violate attorney-client privilege, because they have set up a so-called filter team of unrelated investigators to review Mr Cohen’s electronic devices and documents first.
Judge Wood also denied a request made by Mr Trump’s lawyers for a temporary restraining order against the Department of Justice. The order would have prevented prosecutors from reviewing the files at all.
The decision is a blow to the US president, who has called the FBI raids a “total witch hunt” and claimed they show “attorney-client privilege is dead”.
Judge Kimba also forced Mr Cohen to reveal he had Fox News host, Sean Hannity, a well known Trump supporter, as a client.
Mr Hannity has denied he was ever been represented by, or paid for services provided by Mr Cohen, who is the subject of a criminal investigation focused on his private finances and business interests.
While Judge Wood has not yet formally ruled on who would get access to the documents pertaining to Mr Trump first, she said she had “faith” in Southern District prosecutors, whose “integrity is unimpeachable”.
The raids were widely seen as a major development for the president and his ongoing legal concerns.
However, they were not conducted as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Information leading to the raids was, however, reportedly provided by Mr Mueller’s team.
The seized documents reportedly include recordings between Mr Cohen and a lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the former adult actor who was paid $130,000 (£91,000) in 2016 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with the US president.
The warrant signed before the raids indicate federal prosecutors were seeking information related to the Daniels payment, as well as correspondence related to any efforts by Mr Cohen to suppress the disclosure of the alleged affair between Mr Trump and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
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The warrant also indicated Mr Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance issues.
Outside the courthouse, Ms Daniels’ lawyer said the disclosure of Mr Hannity’s connection to Mr Cohen showed that anyone who has been in contact with the lawyer should be worried.
“I said last Friday and this weekend that Michael Cohen was radioactive, and anybody who has been associated with him in the past 20 years should be very concerned… about what secrets of theirs are in these documents,” Michael Avenatti said.
“The president has trusted Mr Cohen as his fixer for years.”