Cohen attorney hurls leak accusation at Stormy Daniels’ lawyer in U.S. court

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – An attorney for President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, accused porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer in federal court on Wednesday of leaking Cohen’s bank records, calling it a “drive-by shooting of my client’s rights.”

U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at federal court in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

In a hearing before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan, Cohen attorney Stephen Ryan also called the alleged leak by Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, “reckless,” “malicious” and “intentional.”

Avenatti responded, “We did not do anything improper relating to the release of any information concerning Mr. Cohen.”

The hearing stemmed from an investigation of Cohen by federal prosecutors regarding his business dealings. He has not been charged with any crime.

Wood ordered Cohen’s attorneys to finish reviewing millions of documents authorities seized from him by mid-June, overriding their request for more time.

Avenatti has released details of payments to Cohen from a company with ties to a Russian oligarch, who the United States sanctioned over suspected Moscow meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Such disclosures could add pressure on Cohen.

Avenatti had asked Wood to allow him to represent Daniels in the Cohen case. He has said he believes some of the seized materials could relate to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen leaves federal court in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Cohen has asked Wood to deny Avenatti permission to appear before the court, saying Daniels’ lawyer violated court rules by making what he characterized as false statements about Cohen in news media appearances.

A lawyer for Trump, Joanna Hendon, told Wood “we endorse fully” Ryan’s arguments on whether Avenatti should be admitted to the court.

Wood did not rule on whether Avenatti would have a formal role in the case. But she made clear she would not give him an open platform in her courtroom “where you’re free to denigrate Mr. Cohen and, I believe, potentially, deprive him of a fair trial by tainting a jury pool” if criminal charges were ever brought against Cohen.

Wood ordered Cohen’s lawyers to complete their review of 3.7 million files, which are being examined to determine whether they fall under attorney-client privilege.

“We’re moving heaven and Earth” to review the files, said Todd Harrison, a Cohen attorney who had asked the judge to give them until mid-July. Harrison said Cohen’s attorneys had reviewed 1.3 million files so far.

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The investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan stems in part from a referral by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia. Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion, and Russia has denied interfering in the elections.

Cohen has worked for Trump for more than a decade, first as counsel at the Trump Organization and later as his personal lawyer.

In 2016, Cohen paid Daniels $130,000, which she has said was to buy her silence about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006. The president has denied the allegation.

After the April raids on Cohen’s home and office, Cohen and Trump asked the judge to block prosecutors from reviewing the seized documents, citing attorney-client privilege.

Wood responded by appointing former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones as a so-called special master to review whether any of the documents were shielded by attorney-client privilege before turning them over to prosecutors.

In a court filing on Tuesday evening, Jones said she had already turned over to prosecutors more than 290,000 seized items that were not marked privileged by Cohen or Trump.

She said that more than a million items from three seized phones had also been designated as not privileged by Cohen and Trump, and would be turned over to prosecutors on Wednesday.

Cohen and Trump have made at least 252 claims of privilege, according to the filing.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Stempel in New York; writing by Jonathan Oatis; editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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