The Latest From Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen's Recent Court Appearance

May 30, 2018
Originally published on May 30, 2018 8:58 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And let's catch up on some new developments today involving legal matters involving President Trump. For one thing, the president says he regrets hiring the top legal officer in the U.S. That would be Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Also, Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was back in federal court in Manhattan today. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas is also in New York, and he's on the line now to fill us all in. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Hi. So start with Michael Cohen. You were in court today for his hearing.

LUCAS: I was indeed. Cohen was there. He was wearing a dark suit, blue tie, looked pretty somber throughout the hour-long hearing, chatted a couple times with his lawyers. Now, this hearing stems from the FBI raids early last month targeting Cohen's home, his hotel and his office. That's when authorities took a bunch of electronic devices, boxes of documents. The raids were part of an investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan into Cohen's business dealings.

KELLY: Right.

LUCAS: Now, what's happening now is a court-appointed official is deciding which of the seized materials are protected by attorney-client privilege and which are not. Those that are not the government can use to build its case against Cohen. Cohen at this point hasn't been charged. It's important to remember that.

Now, the judge presiding over the case today set a June 15 deadline for Cohen's legal team to review what remains of the around 3.75 million files that were seized. The judge said that after that date, any files that haven't been reviewed will be handed over to a clean team of government attorneys to make that determination. The judge said it's important to keep this investigation moving along.

KELLY: A June 15 deadline - all right, so we'll see how that unspools over the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, worth just reminding - this Cohen investigation is separate from Robert Mueller and the whole Russia probe. So remind us. Just what is at stake here for Michael Cohen?

LUCAS: Well, Cohen matters because he worked for years as a personal lawyer for Trump, but he also worked as a sort of fixer for him. Both of those roles give him significant knowledge into Trump's business matters, into his personal matters as well. So this case in New York has put Cohen under really a lot of legal pressure. There's speculation that if that pressure continues to build - say he gets charged, faces potential serious time in prison - he might decide to flip. He might decide to cooperate with prosecutors, including those investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Of course it depends on what information Cohen has and whether that's of use.

KELLY: All right, well, let me formally pivot you to the Russia investigation now. What is the latest, Ryan, on the allegations from the president that the FBI placed a spy in his campaign? I guess I'm wondering, is he getting buy-in from that from other Republicans, other members of Congress, for example?

LUCAS: Well, remember that the White House brokered this meeting last week between senior intelligence law enforcement officials and top lawmakers because two House Republicans wanted more information surrounding this confidential source who met with Trump campaign aides. One of those House Republicans who wanted more information was Trey Gowdy. Now, Gowdy attended last week's briefing. He now says the FBI didn't do anything wrong. Here's a clip of him last night on Fox.

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TREY GOWDY: The FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

LUCAS: Now, Gowdy has seen as much of the original investigatory material on this question as anybody not directly involved. He's a Republican. He's a Trump ally, and here he is saying the FBI did what it was supposed to do.

KELLY: Trey Gowdy walking a fine line there - and then briefly before we let you go, Ryan, I mentioned the president seems to be having real and articulated second thoughts about his attorney general.

LUCAS: Yes. Trump went after Sessions again on Twitter today. This has been a frequent refrain from the president. He's publicly and privately castigated Sessions for months now because of Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation. Trump believes the attorney general should protect the president. He wants an attorney general who will control the Russia investigation which of course Trump himself has said is a witch hunt.

KELLY: A witch hunt - all right, that's NPR's Ryan Lucas reporting from New York. Thank you, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.