The Slatest

Michael Cohen’s New Filing Offers One of the Greatest Pieces of Legal Chutzpah Ever Seen

Michael Cohen walks on the New York City sidewalk.
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, walks to the Loews Regency hotel on Park Avenue on Friday in New York City.
Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Michael Cohen’s attorneys seem to have modified their request of the court that was set to decide on Monday how an examination of documents seized in a comprehensive raid last week would proceed.

They originally offered an outrageous and almost certainly doomed proposal that Cohen—the target of a criminal probe—be able to decide which of his documents are protected by attorney-client privilege and which ones might be responsive to the government’s investigation (again, of him).

Now, they appear to be narrowing their request to ask a special master to review the documents, rather than a prosecutorial “filter team” or Cohen himself. This is a far more reasonable request, and the arguments for it are surprisingly strong.

Specifically, Cohen’s attorneys argue in a letter to the court on Monday that this case is so high-profile, and has such potentially consequential ramifications for our entire political system, that a special master is needed so that “even the appearance of impropriety is avoided.”

Again, this argument is smart and Cohen’s attorneys point to relevant case law to support it.

Hysterically, though, they partially ground this argument in one of the greatest pieces of legal and political chutzpah this case has yet seen.

Near the end of the letters, the attorneys argue this (italics mine):

[T]he appointment of a Special Master will protect the integrity of the Government’s investigation from the toxic partisan politics of the day and attacks on the impartiality of the Justice Department and the USAO.

Michael Cohen’s client, the president of the United States, has inarguably spent the past year firing off near-weekly “attacks on the impartiality of the Justice Department” in order to degrade the “integrity” of government investigations. Even many of his Republican allies have suggested that he has contributed to the “toxic partisan politics of the day.”

Now Trump’s lawyer is using the grotesque national political and legal circumstances that his client, also the subject of a federal inquiry by criminal investigators, has created and fostered (and, it is implied, will continue to promote) in order to argue that the only way to safeguard the integrity of the Justice Department (from, presumably, Trump) is to do the thing that the president and his attorney want.

It’s quite a neat trick if you can pull it off!