Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen had at least 16 cellphones seized by the FBI and federal prosecutors, Stormy Daniels’s attorney disclosed after a court hearing Thursday in Manhattan.
Michael Avenatti said he had counted that at least 16 cell phones and BlackBerry devices had been taken and ‘imaged’ by the FBI, meaning their contents had been downloaded.
‘Usually not a good sign when the target appears to have saved old phones and there are that many phones recovered. BIGLY bad…for many,’ he tweeted.
Cohen has just said he will plead the Fifth Amendment in California, where Daniels is suing him and the president to be freed from a gagging order intended to buy her silence on claims she slept with Trump, for which she was paid $135,000 just before the election.
And for the first time on Thursday the president admitted Cohen had represented him in the ‘crazy Stormy Daniels deal’.
The federal court hearing had in fact handed the president and Cohen a legal victory when their request that the seized evidence not be looked at in its entirety by the FBI.
Man of many phones: Michael Cohen left court after the federal hearing which gave him and Trump a legal victory over their attempt to limit FBI access to evidence seized in raids on him
Hearing time: Stormy Daniels was not present at the hearing in federal court in Manhattan but her attorney Michael Avenatti was
Also in court: Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti was in court and said he had worked out the minimum number of phones and devices taken by the federal authorities
Instead a ‘special master’, a former federal judge, will sort through it and remove any material which she considered to have attorney-client privilege.
Both Trump and Cohen had argued that the prosecutors’ first suggestion, that an FBI ‘taint team’ would go through it and hand non-privileged evidence to the investigators, was not sufficient to meet their legal right not to have confidential communications between a lawyer and a client looked at.
The hearing came hours after Trump admitted Thursday that his personal attorney Cohen represents him over Daniels – but distanced himself from the lawyer who is now pleading the Fifth Amendment.
Trump spoke by phone ‘Fox & Friends’ in an extraordinary half-hour appearance and said Cohen was one of his ‘many attorneys,’ adding: ‘He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.
”From what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going in.’ The telephone connection seemed to cut out for a few seconds after Trump mentioned Daniels.
The president has previously said he had no knowledge of the $130,000 payment Cohen made to porn actress Daniels in exchange for her silence just before the election about her claims of sex with Trump.
Asked about Cohen’s Fifth Amendment plea, Trump told the Fox News morning show: ‘This has nothing to do with me. I’ve been told I’m not involved.’
Instead he claimed that Cohen – whom he called a ‘good guy’ – was being investigated over his own business dealings.
‘Let me just tell you that Michael is in business,’ he said.
‘He’s really a businessman at fairly big businesses, I understand. And I don’t know his business but this doesn’t have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business. He also practices law.
‘I would say probably the big thing is his business and they’re looking at something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business. I can tell you he’s a good guy.’
And he sought to distance himself from Cohen’s legal work, saying: ‘I have many, many, just so you understand, I have many attorneys. I have attorneys. Sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t even believe it.
‘He has a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction.’
Revelation: Trump phoned Fox & Friends and told co-hosts Steve Doocey, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade that Michael Cohen had represented him over Stormy Daniels
Crowing: Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti said that the president’s admission meant both Trump and Cohen had misrepresented the truth in the past
What does he know? Michael Cohen is pleading the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself when he takes part in a civil case brought by Stormy Daniels over her claims of sex with Trump. Trump said Cohen was pleading over his own business dealings
Key development: Michael Cohen has told a court in California that he will take the Fifth Amendment in civil litigation brought by Stormy Daniels – meaning that he could incriminate himself through evidence in the case. He was on his way to federal court in New York Thursday
Arrival: Michael Cohen eschewed a normal cab for his journey to court – although his business dealings include taxi medallion ownership – where a judge is deciding on how to deal with evidence seized from him in raids earlier this month
The admission, however, was seized on by Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti who said on Twitter that Trump ‘previously represented to the American people that Mr. Cohen acted on his own and Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement’.
‘As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false,’ he said.
Avenatti told the Associated Press: ‘This is going to add considerable momentum to our effort to depose the president and place him under oath in an effort to discover which version of the facts is accurate.’
It was also seized on by federal prosecutors in New York, where Cohen was appearing in court in the wake of the raid on his home, office, hotel room and safe deposit box.
His only other two legal clients were revealed to be Sean Hannity – who himself denied he was a real client – and Elliott Broidy, a disgraced Republican fundraiser for whom Cohen arranged a $1.6 million hush payment to a Playboy model lover who aborted their child in the course of his two year adulterous affair.
‘I have many, many, just so you understand, I have many attorneys. I have attorneys. Sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t even believe it. He has a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction
In a court filing shortly after the president’s interview, prosecutors said that the president’s statement and that of Hannity meant little of what they seized could be subject to privilege.
‘President Trump reportedly said on cable television this morning that Cohen performs ‘a tiny, tiny little fraction’ of his overall legal work,’ they said in a submission to Judge Kimba Wood, who is hearing the case.
‘These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here.’
In fact that did not sway Wood, who appointed former federal judge Barbara Jones as the special master.
‘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 U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood.
Cohen sat in court to hear the decision, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and pale yellow tie.
Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, called Jones ‘a wonderful choice’ to be special master. Jones was appointed to the federal bench by Bill Clinton, and had retired in 2013 after 17 years in the southern district of New York.
Avenatti had also predicted that Cohen would plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination in the law suit brought by Daniels.
Cohen, whose business dealings are under FBI investigation and whose office, home, hotel room and safe deposit box were raided this month, will make the plea in a California civil case.
It means that he believes he could incriminate himself when giving evidence in the case – a move which will raise fears in the Trump camp over what crimes he may think he could be charged with.
The development was disclosed in a brief court filing in Los Angeles Wednesday.
Cohen and Trump are both being sued there by Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, to try to end the $130,000 gag order she agreed to before the election, which stopped her speaking about her claim of sex with the then candidate.
Avenatti, said on Twitter that it was ‘a stunning development’ because it was a case involving ‘issues surrounding the President’.
He added a link to a report that quote Trump as saying in 1990: ‘If you’re innocent, why are taking the Fifth?’
Judges: Judge Kimba Wood, seen at last week’s hearing on the raids, appointed retired judge Barbara Wood as ‘special master’ to oversee what evidence can be released to the feds
Predicted move: Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, said earlier this month that he believed Cohen would take the Fifth Amendment
During an appearance on CNN on Wednesday night, Avenatti said he predicts that the Cohen investigation will result in Trump’s resignation
During an appearance on CNN on Wednesday night, Avenatti said he predicts that the Cohen investigation will result in Trump’s resignation.
Avenatti said he believes the government has evidence that Cohen was in touch until recently with Keith Davidson, the former attorney for Daniels who negotiated the $130,000 non-disclosure agreement.
‘There’s substantial reason to believe that these two attorneys were continuing to communicate with one another well into this year about my client, the settlement, the negotiation, and documents relating to this payment,’ Avenatti told CNN.
Cohen told the judge: ‘Based upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my 5th amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
‘On April 10, 2018, I first realized that my Fifth Amendment Rights would be implicated in this case, after I considered the events of April 9, 2018.’
The move was predicted earlier this month by Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti.
After the filing, he tweeted: ‘This is a stunning development. Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President. It is esp. stunning seeing as MC served as the ‘fixer’ for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs.’
It will be seen by the president’s defenders as a worrying indication that Cohen has committed a crime in some form – which could then be used by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, to turn on Trump in return for immunity.
Trump has ridiculed the idea that Cohen would ‘flip’, but taking the Fifth in the civil case is a sign of the attorney’s growing fear that he could face charges.
One person who has taken the threat of Cohen flipping seriously is his former legal adviser, Jay Goldberg.
Jay Goldberg, Trump’s former legal adviser, told the president recently that it is virtually certain Cohen will ‘flip’ if he is indicted by the federal government
Goldberg told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month that it is virtually certain that Cohen will cooperate with federal investigators and turn over damaging information about Trump if he is faced with criminal charges.
Goldberg, who represented Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s, said he spoke with the president recently and warned him that Cohen would turn on him if it meant staying out of prison.
Goldberg said he told Trump that on a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Cohen ‘isn’t even a 1.’
The FBI raid was ordered by federal prosecutors in Manhattan after information was passed to them by Mueller. The nature of Mueller’s tip-off has not been disclosed.
Cohen asked the judge to delay the civil case after his office and residence were raided by the FBI.
At a hearing last week, U.S. District Judge James Otero said he needed more time to review the request for a stay, but he told Cohen’s attorney ‘there’s some gaping holes’ in the request.
Daniels has been seeking to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 elections so she can discuss the alleged relationship – which Trump denies – without facing penalties.
She argues it invalid because Cohen signed it, but the president did not.
That did not stop her from describing her sex with Trump to Anderson Cooper on CNN, but her legal team say that she could be sued for doing so and want that threat lifted.
The development came as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani – the newest member of Trump’s Russia-probe-focused legal team – sat down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (left), who is now representing President Trump in the Russia probe, sat down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller (right) on Tuesday
The Washington Post reported that Giuliani reopened discussions on a potential interview between Trump and Mueller, conversations that had broken down in the aftermath of the FBI’s raid on longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, hotel room and home.
The ex-mayor, the Post noted, told Mueller that there was still great reluctance in agreeing to an interview, but did not rule it out.
Giuliani also asked Mueller when the Russia probe might be done, the newspaper’s sources said.
Mueller, in turn, told Giuliani that he wished to ask the president about the decisions he made during the transition and early months of the administration.
It is important for investigators to understand the president’s intent as they look into potential obstruction of justice, Mueller noted.
Mueller, the head of the FBI before James Comey, and Giuliani, who stewarded New York City through the 9/11 terror attacks, have known each other for years thanks to their law enforcement backgrounds.
Last week upon his hiring to Trump’s legal team, Giuliani suggested he would be the individual to get the Russia probe resolved.
‘I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,’ the ex-mayor had told the Washington Post last week.
Trump has vehemently and repeatedly denied collusion with Russia, calling it a ‘witch hunt’ and also slammed claims that Cohen would flip on him because he had not been treated well by the president.
He dismissed them as based on a ‘drunk/drugged up loser’, although officials would not say who that was.
One report in the New York Times which appeared to have caused Trump’s ire mentioned both Roger Cohen, his long-time adviser, and Sam Nunberg, a former Trump adviser who went into rehab e after a series of television interviews on which he claimed he would not co-operate with Mueller.
In a string of tweets on Saturday morning, President Trump defended Michael Cohen and said he did not think he would ‘flip’ on him as has been suggested. He deleted the tweets then reposted them shortly afterwards with the correct spelling of Maggie Haberman’s name. Haberman published a report on Friday citing multiple unnamed sources who said it was a possibility that Cohen might turn on Trump
SPANKING, A $130,000 GAG ORDER AND SECRET DEALS – HOW CLAIMS OF SEX WITH STORMY DANIELS TURNED INTO A FULL-SCALE FBI RAID
July 2006: Porn star Stormy Daniels says she meets now President Donald Trump at a Nevada golf tournament. They have an alleged sexual encounter.
2011: Daniels gives an interview about her tryst with Trump to In Touch Weekly. In 2018 she tells 60 Minutes that she was threatened by a man in Las Vegas over the telling of her story, and so the interview never ran.
October 2016: In the weeks before voters head to the polls, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen uses a Delaware-based LLC to make a $130,000 payment to Daniels, in exchange for her to sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep quiet about the alleged sexual encounter.
May 17, 2017: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the Russia probe on the heels of President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.
January 12, 2018: The Wall Street Journal breaks the story that Cohen paid the $130,000 to Daniels, weeks shy of the 2016 presidential election.
February 13, 2018: Cohen publicly admits to paying the $130,000, but says he did so with his own personal money, and was reimbursed by the Trump campaign nor the Trump Organization. In referencing the payment, Daniels’ attorney says the NDA is breached.
March 6, 2018: The Washington Post reported that Mueller requested documents and interviewed witnesses about incidents involving Cohen. Additionally, Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump in California Superior Court claiming that the NDA never went into effect because Trump never signed it.
March 16, 2018: Lawyers for both Cohen and Trump attempt to get the Daniels’ lawsuit moved from state to federal court. This marked the first time lawyers for Trump are actively involved in legal action over the Daniels’ matter.
March 28, 2018: The 60 Minutes’ interview with Daniels airs. She details spanking Trump with a magazine with his face on the cover and having sex with him once.
April 5, 2018: For the first time, Trump speaks about the $130,000 payment telling reporters on board Air Force One that he had no knowledge of it at the time. ‘You’ll have to ask Michael,’ the president responded when asked why Cohen made the payment
April 9, 2018: The FBI raids the New York City offices of Cohen. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan received a referral from Mueller, the New York Times reported. CNN reported that documents related to the Daniels affair were swept up in the search.