NEW YORK, April 26 (Reuters) - A federal judge is expected to weigh who should get the first look at documents seized from U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, at a hearing in Manhattan on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood has ordered the hearing to discuss the possible appointment of an independent official known as a special master to review the documents and determine whether they are shielded by attorney-client privilege before handing them over to prosecutors.
Lawyers for Cohen and Trump, who are seeking to limit prosecutors’ ability to review the documents, are expected to appear at the hearing.
Attorney-client privilege shields communications between a lawyer and a client, with some exceptions.
A lawyer for Cohen said at a court hearing last week that in addition to Trump, Cohen’s clients included Republican donor Elliott Broidy and conservative Fox News commentator and Trump supporter Sean Hannity.
Hannity has said he has had only “brief discussions” about legal matters with Cohen and never retained him.
Prosecutors have 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 filed a legal action to block them from reviewing the documents, arguing that either his lawyers or a special master should get a first look.
Lawyers for Trump have also argued that they should be allowed the first look at documents related to the president. In a court filing on Wednesday, they said that Trump would personally “make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf.”
Wood said at a hearing last week that she believed a taint team could be fair, but that a special master might help ensure “the perception of fairness.”
Both prosecutors and Cohen’s lawyers last week submitted a list of candidates for special master.
Cohen has admitted paying $130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, before the 2016 election to secure her silence about a sexual relationship she said she had with Trump. Daniels has sued to end her nondisclosure agreement.
On Wednesday, Cohen said in a filing in Los Angeles federal court that he would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in connection with the civil lawsuit filed by Daniels.
Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, possible campaign law violations in connection with the payment to Daniels, and perhaps other matters related to Trump’s campaign, a person familiar with the probe has said.
The investigation stems in part from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, something Trump has repeatedly denied. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York Editing by Tom Brown)