Stormy Daniels' lawyer joins fight over Trump lawyer's files

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(Reuters) – A lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels argued in a court hearing on Friday that materials seized by federal investigators from U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer may concern his client, who claims the president slept with her.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with the president.

“We have every reason to believe that some of the documents that were seized relate to my client,” the lawyer Michael Avenatti told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.

Avenatti said he should be allowed to represent the interests of Daniels.

The hearing concerned a motion by Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, for an order restraining federal prosecutors from using materials seized in Monday’s FBI raid of his offices.

The raids followed a referral by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who for nearly a year has been looking into whether Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia.

A source familiar with the matter said this week that FBI agents were looking in those raids for information on payments to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Investigators were also looking into whether there was a broader pattern of tax fraud, wire fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes in Cohen’s private dealings, including his work for Trump and some real estate transactions that involved Russian buyers and prices that appeared to be well above market values, the source said.

Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, is pictured outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Wood said at the hearing that Cohen’s lawyers are asking that they be allowed a first pass at the materials, so they can identify what is irrelevant or protected by attorney-client privilege. Alternatively, they have suggested that Wood appoint a neutral “special master” for the task.

Prosecutors have said that a team of their own lawyers, known as a “taint team,” should conduct the first review.

A lawyer for Trump, Joanna Hendon, said at Friday’s hearing, the president had “an acute interest” in the case. She asked to file a brief for the president by Sunday night. She said she would oppose having prosecutors review the documents first.

“There’s an appearance of fairness problem here,” she said.

Tom McKay, a federal prosecutor, stressed that the president does not deserve special treatment, and that his interest in attorney-client privilege was “no different” from anyone else’s.

Wood ordered the lawyers to return at 2 p.m. on Friday for further discussion. Another hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, after Trump’s lawyers submit their brief.

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“The last thing a trial team wants is to be subject to suppression based on a breach of the attorney-client privilege that could have been avoided,” said Jacob Frenkel, a Washington lawyer who is not involved in the case.

Monday’s raid infuriated Trump, who has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.” He stepped up the attacks after the raids, but said on Thursday he was cooperating with authorities. Moscow has also denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld, Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Frances Kerry and Susan Thomas



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