Cohen attorney pins leak on Daniels lawyer

Jonathan Stempel

An attorney for President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has accused porn star Stormy Daniels' lawyer in federal court of leaking Cohen's bank records, calling it a "drive-by shooting of my client's rights."

In a hearing before US District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan on Wednesday, Cohen attorney Stephen Ryan also called the alleged leak by Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, "reckless," "malicious" and "intentional."

Avenatti responded, "We did not do anything improper relating to the release of any information concerning Mr Cohen."

The hearing stemmed from an investigation of Cohen by federal prosecutors regarding his business dealings. He has not been charged with any crime.

Wood ordered Cohen's attorneys to finish reviewing millions of documents authorities seized from him by mid-June, overriding their request for more time.

Avenatti has released details of payments to Cohen from a company with ties to a Russian oligarch, who the United States sanctioned over suspected Moscow meddling in the 2016 US election. Such disclosures could add pressure on Cohen.

Avenatti had asked Wood to allow him to represent Daniels in the Cohen case. He has said he believes some of the seized materials could relate to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Cohen has asked Wood to deny Avenatti permission to appear before the court, saying Daniels' lawyer violated court rules by making what he characterised as false statements about Cohen in news media appearances.

A lawyer for Trump, Joanna Hendon, told Wood "we endorse fully" Ryan's arguments on whether Avenatti should be admitted to the court.

Wood did not rule on whether Avenatti would have a formal role in the case. But she made clear she would not give him an open platform in her courtroom "where you're free to denigrate Mr Cohen and, I believe, potentially, deprive him of a fair trial by tainting a jury pool" if criminal charges were ever brought against Cohen.

Wood ordered Cohen's lawyers to complete their review of 3.7 million files, which are being examined to determine whether they fall under attorney-client privilege.

The investigation stems in part from a referral by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia. Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion, and Russia has denied interfering in the elections.

Cohen has worked for Trump for more than a decade, first as counsel at the Trump Organisation and later as his personal lawyer.

In 2016, Cohen paid Daniels $130,000, which she has said was to buy her silence about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006. The president has denied the allegation.