Federal Judge Tosses "Taint Team" For Trump Lawyer Raid, Instead "Special Master" To Handle Seized Documents

Prosecutors seeking to pore over documents seized from President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, won't be able to use a "taint team" - a group of lawyers also known as a "privilege team," whose job it is to review materials and remove anything covered by attorney-client privilege.

Instead, a federal judge ruled on Thursday that court-appointed independent "special master," former federal judge Barbara Jones, should be the first person to examine the documents seized in the April 9 raid of Cohen's office, hotel and residence. 

The prosecutors initially said the documents should be reviewed by a "taint team" of lawyers within their own office, who would be walled off from the main prosecution team. Cohen argued that his lawyers should get a first look. -Straits Times

Both sides said they are amenable to a special master as an alternative to the taint team.

"The letters I received from counsel for Mr Cohen and the intervenors has convinced me that this process can go quickly with the special master, assuming everyone works as hard as you have represented you will work," said US District Judge Kimba Wood.

Jones, 71, started her career in 1973 as a DOJ special attorney in the Organized Crime & Racketeering Criminal division, after which she served as an Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Jones was appointed as a Judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1995 by President Bill Clinton, on the recommendation of Democratic Senator Patrick Moynihan (D. 2003) - whose Senate seat Hillary Clinton filled in 2001. 

She is currently a partner Houston-based international law firm, Bracewell LLP.  at teaches trial advocacy at the Practicing Law Institute (PLI) in New York since 2009. 

During her 16-year term in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Jones presided over a diverse range of cases, including accounting and securities fraud, antitrust, fraud and corruption involving city contracts and federal loan programs, labor racketeering and terrorism. In May 2010, Judge Jones was appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to serve on the seven-member Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation; she served on the panel until October 2012.

Prior to her U.S. District Judge nomination in 1995 by President Bill Clinton, she served as Chief Assistant to Robert M. Morgenthau, then-District Attorney of New York County. Previously, she was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where she served as the chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force Unit. Judge Jones has served as an adjunct assistant professor at Fordham Law School and New York University School of Law. Judge Jones also chaired the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel, created by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, aimed at assessing the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of sexual assaults in the military. The panel issued a report to Congress in June 2014 with 132 recommendations to the Department of Defense. -Bracewell LLP

Federal prosecutors say they have been investigating Cohen for months, mostly over his business dealings with various clients, including President Trump. Trump, meanwhile, said in a Thursday interview with Fox News that Cohen only handled "a tiny, tiny fraction" of his overall legal work.

The Cohen probe "doesn't have to do with me," Trump said."They're looking at something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business."

Trump did, however, acknowledge that Cohen had represented him in "this crazy Stormy Daniels deal," in reference to adult film star Stephanie Clifford. 

Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, possible campaign law violations in connection with a payment to Daniels, and perhaps other matters related to Trump's presidential campaign, a person familiar with the probe has said.

The investigation stemmed in part from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, something that Trump has repeatedly denied. -Straits Times

Cohen admitted paying Daniels $130,000 prior to the 2016 election in exchange for her silence over an alleged sexual relationship she had with Trump. Cohen says the payment was legal, while Daniels is currently suing to end her non-disclosure agreement (NDA) on the grounds that it's invalid due to the use of pseudonyms. 

Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen also arranged a $1.6 million payoff to a former Playboy model in late 2017 who says she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser, "according to people familiar with the matter" (96 hours after the raid).

Michael Cohen, whose office, home and hotel room were raided by federal agents this week, arranged the payments to the woman on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee with ties to Mr. Trump, the people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Broidy, a Los Angeles-based venture capitalist, works on the Republican committee with Mr. Cohen, who is also a national deputy finance chairman.

The deal, which hasn’t previously been reported, prohibits the Los Angeles woman from disclosing her alleged relationship with Mr. Broidy in exchange for $1.6 million to be paid to her over two years in quarterly installments, these people said. The first payment was due Dec. 1, according to one of the people.-WSJ

Now that all the embarrassing stuff has been leaked from the Cohen raid, "special master" Barbara Jones can impartially examine the remainder.