Judge appoints 'special master' to review seized Trump lawyer documents


NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge ruled on Thursday that a court-appointed independent official called a special master should be the first to examine documents seized by FBI agents from U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The agents raided Cohen's office and home on April 9, an action that infuriated the president. Prosecutors said they have been investigating the lawyer for months, largely over his business dealings rather than his legal work.

The seizure of the documents has led to a legal spat as to who should be allowed to review them, with lawyers for Cohen and Trump seeking to limit what prosecutors could see, citing attorney-client privilege.

Trump on Thursday in an interview with Fox News called Cohen a good guy but said he handled only "a tiny, tiny little fraction" of his overall legal work.

SEE ALSO: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says will plead the 5th in Stormy Daniels case

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.

In the end, the judge ruled that an independent special master should get a first look, an option that both sides had indicated they would be open to.

The special master, former federal judge Barbara Jones, will review the documents and determine which may be shielded by attorney-client privilege before handing them over to prosecutors.

"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.

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Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels hush payment scandal
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Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels hush payment scandal
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaks to the media outside US Federal Court on April 16, 2018, in Lower Manhattan, New York. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. Some of the documents reportedly relate to payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims a one-night stand with Trump a decade ago, and ex Playboy model Karen McDougal who also claims an affair. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Michael Avenatti, lawyer for adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Michael Cohen's attorney Todd Harrison arrives at federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen (centre) leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaks to media along with lawyer Michael Avenatti (R) outside federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Michael Cohen's attorney Todd Harrison is pictured outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks to media along with lawyer Michael Avenatti (R) outside federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
Attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti is pictured though a window as he arrives at federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and attorney Michael Avenatti arrive at Federal Court in New York, U.S., on Monday, April 16, 2018. Daniels claims she had sex with Donald Trump in 2006 and took a $130,000 hush payment shortly before the 2016 election from lawyer Michael Cohen. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
President Trumps lawyer Michael Cohen exits the US Federal Court on April 16, 2018, in Lower Manhattan, New York. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. Some of the documents reportedly relate to payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims a one-night stand with Trump a decade ago, and ex Playboy model Karen McDougal who also claims an affair. / AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, (C) also known as Stormy Daniels arrives for a court hearing at the US Courthouse in New York on April 16, 2018. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. / AFP PHOTO / Hector RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti(C), arrives for a court hearing at the US Courthouse in New York on April 16, 2018. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Michael Avenatti (R), attorney for Stormy Daniels, arrives for a court proceeding regarding the search warrants served on President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, at the United States District Court Southern District of New York, April 13, 2018 in New York City. Cohen and his lawyers are asking the court to block Justice Department officials from reading documents and materials related to his relationship with President Donald Trump that they believe should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Officials with the FBI, armed with a search warrant, raided Cohen's office and two private residences earlier in the week. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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'CRAZY DEAL'

In the Fox News interview, Trump said that he had nothing to do with the criminal investigation into the lawyer.

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 also confirmed for the first time that Cohen had represented him in "this crazy Stormy Daniels deal," referring to an adult-film star who says she had a one-night stand with Trump in 2006.

53 PHOTOS
Porn star Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had a yearlong affair with Trump
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Porn star Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had a yearlong affair with Trump
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attends the 2017 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the 2017 Adult Video News Awards held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 18: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels appears at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 18, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 18: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels appears at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 18, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 23: Adult film actor/musician Brendon Miller (L) and his wife, adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels, attend the 2016 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 23: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attends the 2016 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the 2016 XBIZ Awards held at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on January 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 22: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels poses at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2015 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 22: Adult film actresses/directors jessica drake (L) and Stormy Daniels pose at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2015 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - MAY 03: Stormy Daniels attends Exxxotica 2014 on May 3, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 16: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels attends the 2014 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 16, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 16: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels attends the 2014 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 16, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 05: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the Sapphire Pool & Day Club grand opening party on May 5, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 11: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels and adult film actor Brendon Miller arrive for the 2013 XBIZ Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 11, 2013 in Century City, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 11: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the 2013 XBIZ Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 11, 2013 in Century City, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 20: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels appears during an autograph signing for Wicked Pictures at the 2012 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (L), and her husband, adult film actor Brendon Miller, arrive at the 29th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 20: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels appears during an autograph signing for Wicked Pictures at the 2012 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 03: Stormy Daniels (R) arrives at Jet Nightclub at The Mirage on October 3, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
Musician Dave Navarro and actress Stormy Daniels arrive at the premiere 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' at the Grauman's Chinese Theater on April 10, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 10: Musician Dave Navarro and actress Stormy Daniels arrive at the premiere 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' at the Grauman's Chinese Theater on April 10, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Stormy Daniels arrives at the 50th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 10, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Gabriel BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Actress Stormy Daniels arrives to the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 12: Actress Stormy Daniels arrives at a naughty night to remember at TAO Nightclub at The Venetian Hotel and Casino Resort on January 12, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Farina/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 12: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (L) and radio talk show host Bubba the Love Sponge arrive at the 25th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center January 12, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 13: Stormy Daniels attends 'Superbad' Premiere Los Angeles - Arrivals at Mann's Chinese Theatre on August 13, 2007 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by ANDREAS BRANCH/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - AUGUST 13: Actress Stormy Daniels attends the premiere of Superbad at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on August 13, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
Stormy Daniels during 'Knocked Up' Los Angeles Premiere - Red Carpet at Mann's Village Theater in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc for Variety Magazine)
Stormy Daniels during 'Knocked Up' Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
Stormy Daniels and Gerard Butler (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
Stormy Daniels during GQ Magazine Celebrates Heineken Premium Light at Les Deux in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by M. Tran/FilmMagic)
Ron Jeremy and Stormy Daniels during Ron Jeremy Birthday Bash Hosted by Stormy Daniels in Association with Penthouse and Esterman - March 10, 2007 at Element in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
Ron Jeremy and Stormy Daniels (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 13: Dieter Esch, head of Wilhelmina Models (L), and adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrive at the 24th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center January 13, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 13: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the 24th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center January 13, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Stormy Daniels (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 2: Socialite Stormy Daniels attends the Grand Opening of An Original Penguin on November 2, 2006 Hollywood, California. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 2: Socialite Stormy Daniels attends the Grand Opening of An Original Penguin on November 2, 2006 Hollywood, California. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
Stormy Daniels during 'The Bliss' Los Angeles Screening - Arrivals at Cinespace in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 28: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels presents a creation by Junker Designs during a fashion show debuting the company's new collection at the Rainbow Bar & Grill as part of the MAGIC convention August 28, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Stormy Daniels (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
Stormy Daniels (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
LAS VEGAS - JUNE 03: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the first annual Head to Hollywood Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament and Auction at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino June 3, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The charity, founded by actress Carmen Electra and Us Weekly editor Ken Baker, provides brain tumor survivors and their families a VIP celebrity experience in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Actresss Stormy Daniels arrives to the Sheila and Lynn Marbry's Elevate Hope Foundation 'Circle of Passion' pre-Oscar benefit event at the Pacific Design Center Sunday evening. (Photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actresses Stormy Daniels (R) and Kristen Price arrive to the Sheila and Lynn Marbry's Elevate Hope Foundation 'Circle of Passion' pre-Oscar benefit event at the Pacific Design Center Sunday evening. (Photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)
Jose Canseco and Stormy Daniels during Guy's North in Studio City Grand Opening - Red Carpet and Inside at Guys North in Studio City, California, United States. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage for BWR Public Relations)
Pornstar, Stormy Daniels AKA Stormy Waters during Missy Elliot Hosts Yahoo! Music's Exclusive Grammy After Party at Mood in Hollywood, CA, United States. (Photo by Derek Bauer/FilmMagic)
Stormy Daniels and Jose Canseco during Yahoo! Music and Missy Elliot Post-Grammy Event at Mood in Hollywood, CA, United States. (Photo by M. Phillips/WireImage for Strategic Group)
Stormy Daniels AKA Stormy Waters, Wicked Contract Performer (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 10: Dave Navarro and Stormy Daniels attend The Universal Pictures Premiere of Forgetting Sarah Marshall at Graumans Chinese Theatre on April 10, 2008 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by ANDREAS BRANCH/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - JULY 27: Comedian Dane Cook with Stormy Daniels attend a signing for his new CD/DVD 'Retaliation' at Tower Records on July 27, 2005 in Hollywood California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - JULY 27: Stormy Daniels attends a signing for Comedian Dane Cook's new CD/DVD 'Retaliation' at Tower Records on July 27, 2005 in Hollywood California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
Angel Cassiday and Stormy Daniels AKA Stormy Waters (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
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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.

Cohen has admitted paying $130,000 to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, before the 2016 election to secure her silence about the one-night stand she said she had with Trump. Cohen said the payment was legal, and Daniels has sued to end her nondisclosure agreement.

Trump, who has denied having an affair with Daniels, said Cohen did nothing wrong in representing him in the Daniels case. "There were no campaign funds going into this, which would have been a problem," he told Fox.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson and Johnathan Stempel in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Tom Brown, Frances Kerry and Susan Thomas)

 

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