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Federal government seeks outsider to sift records seized from Giuliani

“The government considers it appropriate for the court to appoint a special master to determine privilege over documents seized pursuant to warrants,” lawyers for the office of US attorney Audrey Strauss wrote in a letter sent last week. to the judge of the United States District Court. Paul Oetken. The letter was unsealed by the court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors appear to have written to Oetken because he is overseeing a criminal case in which two associates of Giuliani face campaign finance and fraud charges. Giuliani has not been charged.

The letter was sent Thursday, a day after Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment and office was searched. The judge unsealed him Tuesday afternoon. In an order on Tuesday, Oetken also gave Giuliani until May 10 to respond to the government’s proposal.

As part of a special master process, a respected lawyer – often a retired judge or magistrate – often oversees the filtering of emails, text messages, photos, audio and video files to determine what is covered. by mandate. The special master could also assess whether these files are covered by solicitor-client privilege or other protections lawyers have for their files.

Prosecutors’ proposal in Giuliani’s case appears to encompass a special master overseeing the examination of privileges, but not sorting out which documents respond. Giuliani, Trump, or other Giuliani clients could ask Oetken to expand the responsibilities of the special advocate.

A lawyer for Giuliani, Robert Costello, declined to comment on Tuesday.

When the FBI raided Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen in 2018, prosecutors said the appointment of a special master was “neither necessary nor appropriate.” Instead, attorneys for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said they plan to rely on a “rigorous screening protocol” to ensure that no privileged or unreactive cases reach investigators. This approach is sometimes also referred to as the “corruption team,” which then forwards documents that those pursuing the investigation are deemed to have a right to see.

After lawyers for Cohen and Trump filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block this process, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood agreed to have the triage and review overseen by an independent third party: the judge at the Barbara Jones retired.

Wood agreed to appoint a special master after saying it could strengthen the “perception of fairness” in the high-profile case, although prosecutors in the Giuliani case pointed out in their letter to Oetken that she had also stated that the appointment was not necessary to ensure “fairness itself.” “

Wood’s decision appeared to be influenced by the fact that Trump, the Trump organization, and Cohen agreed to bear the costs of the review.

It was not immediately clear who would pay for a special master in the Giuliani case or if Trump would participate through his lawyers. Trump spokesman Jason Miller did not respond to a request for comment.

In the end, over 4 million articles were reviewed as a result of Cohen’s research in a process that took several months.

The latest developments follow a ruling last year by a federal appeals court based in Richmond, Va., In an unrelated case. A panel in that court rejected the Justice Department’s use of a corrupt team of government agents to sort and classify documents seized from a Baltimore law firm.

Five days before the change of administration in January, the Justice Department asked the entire bench of 4e Circuit to repeat the case. The court refused later that month. This left the ruling in place and set a precedent, but that now only rules in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Carolinas.

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