A dozen audio recordings seized by the FBI from President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, were forwarded to federal prosecutors after lawyers dropped challenges on attorney-client privilege grounds, a former judge revealed Monday.
The recordings were among millions of files taken from Cohen in April as part of a criminal probe of his business practices.
Barbara Jones, a court-appointed lawyer and former Manhattan federal judge helping to decide which of the seized files are protected by privilege, said in a court filing that prosecutors received the recordings on Friday after attorneys for Trump, Cohen and the Trump Organization dropped privilege claims.
The same day, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said Cohen had recorded a conversation in which the president had discussed a potential payment to silence the story of a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump.
Giuliani said the brief recording shows Trump did nothing wrong.
“The transaction that Michael is talking about on the tape never took place, but what’s important is: If it did take place, the president said it has to be done correctly and it has to be done by check” to keep a proper record of it, Giuliani said.
In a weekend tweet, Trump called Cohen’s practice of recording conversations “totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”
Attorney Lanny Davis, speaking on Cohen’s behalf, has said what is on the tape will not harm Cohen.
Jones has been providing periodic updates on the privilege review of over 4 million items, mostly electronic, that were found on numerous computer storage devices and cellular phones seized from Cohen.
Late Thursday, Jones notified U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, who appointed her, that Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization had designated 4,085 items seized from Cohen as privileged among the most recent items she reviewed.
She wrote that she agreed that 2,633 were privileged, in full or part, but that 1,452 items were not. She said lawyers for Cohen still disagreed about 22 of those items but said they would not pursue their objections. With that, Jones released them all to prosecutors.
Jones wrote in Monday’s filing that the parties withdrew their designations of privilege as to a dozen audio recordings that were being reviewed by Jones. She said she then released them to prosecutors.
Jones said she was continuing to review other items.
Cohen has not been charged with a crime.