By Robert A. Vella
Open mouth, insert foot.
It’s an old saying that warns about speaking too much or without discretion. In the legal system, opening one’s mouth unwisely can have serious consequences. Intelligent, composed people know when to speak and what to say. The right to remain silent is a legal principle recognized throughout the world.
Someone who doesn’t appear to have any appreciation for thoughtful consideration is America’s not-so-illustrious president Donald Trump; and, his big mouth is definitely complicating his legal troubles.
Attorneys for Cohen and Trump have been fighting to prevent prosecutors from having unfettered access to thousands of documents that were seized from Cohen earlier this month as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the lawyer and his personal business.
In a letter to the court filed in advance of the hearing, prosecutors cited Trump’s comments early Thursday on the cable show“Fox and Friends” in which he said Cohen has performed only a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of the president’s legal work.
Prosecutors argued that Trump’s remarks proved that relatively few of the seized documents were likely to be privileged communications between the two men.
The prosecutors’ speedy incorporation of Trump’s Fox interview into legal documents provided a vivid illustration of the strategic downsides of the president’s media interviews and off-the-cuff remarks and tweets — and why lawyers urge their clients to limit public commentary about ongoing legal matters.
Prosecutors noted that Cohen’s attorneys had at first told the court that the FBI had seized “thousands, if not millions” of pages of privileged material from his home and office. Since then, however, Cohen’s attorneys have acknowledged that Cohen has had only three legal clients in the past year.
One, Fox News host Sean Hannity, has said that Cohen never represented him in any legal matter. With his new comments, Trump, too, indicated that Cohen did relatively little work for him.
“These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggested that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here,” prosecutors wrote.
In their filing, prosecutors withdrew their previous opposition to the appointment of a special master, provided that a third party receive the documents before Cohen and his attorneys.
Instead, Wood laid out a basic framework in which the special master and Cohen’s attorneys will receive the material about the same time, review it independently and then discuss areas of potential disagreement.
Both sides appeared to accept the choice of Jones without objection. Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, declared her “a fine choice.”
Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti said President Donald Trump made a “hugely damaging admission” in a phone call to his favorite show Fox & Friends Thursday when saying for the first time that his personal lawyer Michael Cohen represented him in the Stormy Daniels “deal.”
Avenatti made the statement on MSNBC’s Morning Joe after the show played a clip from Trump’s call in which he said Cohen—who is under a federal investigation for deals including a payout to Daniels to cover up an alleged affair with Trump—represented him in “a tiny, tiny, little fraction” of his overall legal work.
“Michael would represent me, and represent me on some things. He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said. “And you know from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Avenatti called Trump’s admission “another gift from the heavens in this case.”