WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer for President Donald Trump sought in court on Friday to stop U.S. prosecutors from deciding what materials seized from his personal attorney can be used in a probe that began with a referral by investigators looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Monday’s raids of attorney Michael Cohen’s home and office followed a referral by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who for nearly a year has been looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
At a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Joanna Hendon, a lawyer for Trump, said the president had “acute” and “weighty” interests at stake.
She resisted the idea that Cohen’s lawyers, a special master” or a “taint team” favored by prosecutors should decide what becomes public.
“The viability of this prosecution, it has to be done right,” Hendon told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood.
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.
Friday’s hearing was scheduled after Cohen’s lawyers applied the prior evening for the first chance to decide which documents were relevant to Mueller’s investigation.
Cohen is seeking a temporary restraining order regarding the searches of his home and office, a Justice Department spokesman said earlier on Friday.
Such an order would be sought to stop the government from using seized materials, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Wood acknowledged the complexities of the dispute, and said “the law is very sparse on the issues here.”
Monday’s raid infuriated Trump, who has called the special counsel investigation a “witch hunt.” After the searches, he stepped up attacks against Mueller’s probe before saying on Thursday that he was cooperating with the authorities.
Both Trump and Moscow deny any wrongdoing.
Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Frances Kerry and Susan Thomas