Published: Sat, June 02, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Avenatti alleges Michael Cohen recorded 'inappropriate' conversations

Avenatti alleges Michael Cohen recorded 'inappropriate' conversations

In a contentious 75-minute hearing, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood also rebuffed a bid from the high-profile lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels to participate in the case, telling Michael Avenatti he shouldn't use the court to launch a "publicity tour" against Cohen and Trump.

Wood also heard arguments about whether Avenatti - who represents Daniels in other lawsuits she has filed against Trump and Cohen - could join the case, providing the hearing's main drama.

Michael Avenatti, lawyer of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels speaks to media as he exits courtroom in New York, Could 30, 2018. Avenatti has said that Clifford is not represented by Eagan Avenatti, his former law firm, which was just hit with a $10 million judgment by a federal bankruptcy court. Also reviewing the materials are lawyers for Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the president and the Trump Organization.

Wood told Cohen's team to complete its work by 15 June.

Ryan at one point seemed critical of what he called "a very odd thing going on" between prosecutors and Avenatti, who claimed he had a good working relationship with the government lawyers and that he knew the lawyers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not leaked the audio.

Stephen Ryan, a Cohen attorney, said he was unaware of the release of any audio file.

During an April hearing, Wood sided with Cohen and appointed a special master to oversee the document review process, rather than have the team of government lawyers make privilege declarations.

"Please take notice that the motion for admission pro hac vice filed by Michael J. Avenatti is hereby withdrawn without prejudice as unnecessary". Avenatti's involvement in the case so far, Ryan argued, has "turned (it) on it's head".

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In addition to his frequent appearances on cable news, Avenatti drove headlines three weeks ago when he tweeted information alleging Cohen had received payments of over $500,000 from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch and US companies lobbying the government, including AT&T and Novartis. She said she had not received productions related to three seized items and did not know when to expect them.

"It's never a good idea to be recording conversations, period, especially if you are an attorney, especially if you're dealing with sensitive information", Avenatti said.

"You will not be able to declare your opinion of Mr. Cohen's guilt", Judge Wood said. Wood said that was too long. Ryan said, "Candidly, he shouldn't be asking us to answer questions; he should be asked to answer questions".

She said none of the pieces of data from three phones likely to be turned over Wednesday after she makes a final review of them were designated as subject to attorney-client privilege or highly personal by lawyers for Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization.

Cohen's team pushed for that deadline to be in mid-July.

That ruling, however, took a backseat to the sideshow involving Avenatti, Cohen and Trump, who are enmeshed in two civil suits and whose clash escalated earlier this month when Avenatti released Cohen's leaked banking records. A government attorney at that same tribunal also admonished Eagan Avenatti for allegedly defaulting on back taxes that he had previously agreed to pay.

US District Judge Kimba Wood appointed Jones as special master in late April to oversee the review, after Cohen's lawyers demanded that privileged communications seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation be reviewed not by the government but by an outside consultant not directly affiliated with any potential prosecution.

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