NEW YORK: Adult-film star Stormy Daniels arrived to watch a court hearing on Monday over documents seized from U.S. President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, in a federal investigation that could cast a harsh light on Trump's business and personal dealings.
Photographers knocked over barricades as they scrambled in the streets outside the Manhattan courthouse to snap pictures of her as she arrived in a lavender-coloured skirt and jacket.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is entangled in a separate civil battle with Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, over a US$130,000 payment made to her as part of a 2016 agreement to stop her from discussing a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump a decade earlier.
Cohen, Trump's fiercely loyal and pugnacious lawyer, is in court to ask a judge to limit the ability of federal prosecutors to review documents seized from him last week as part of a criminal investigation.
A person familiar with the raids said last week that the information Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were seeking included information about payments to Daniels.
As the hearing got underway, Cohen sat by his lawyers, dressed in a dark suit, looking tense and clasping his hands on a table before him. Daniels quietly took a seat towards the back of the public gallery with her lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
Cohen has asked the court to give his own lawyers the first look at the seized materials so they can identify documents that are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Failing that, they want the court to appoint an independent official known as a special master, a role typically filled by a lawyer, to go through the documents and electronic data seized under a warrant and decide what prosecutors can see.
Prosecutors have asked that the documents be reviewed for attorney-client privilege by a "filter team" of lawyers within their own office, who would be walled off from the main prosecution team.
A lawyer for Trump, Joanna Hendon, asked in a filing on Sunday to be allowed to review documents that in any way relate to the president, which she described as being seized amid a "highly politicized, even fevered, atmosphere."
A judge on Friday ordered that Cohen be present at Monday's hearing so that he could answer questions about his clients.
But Cohen's lawyers have argued that Cohen should not be required to turn over the names of his clients. They disclosed in a court filing on Monday that Cohen had at least 10 clients in 2017 and 2018, and that he did "traditional legal tasks" for three of them, including Trump, Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy and a third who asked not to be named.
Among his dealings, Cohen arranged a US$1.6-million payment to secure the silence of a former Playboy model who said she became pregnant by Broidy, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.
Last week's raids came after a "months-long" investigation related largely to Cohen's business dealings, rather than his work as a lawyer, prosecutors have said.
The raids were based partly on a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, according to court filings.
Trump has called Mueller's probe a "witch hunt" and denied any collusion.
Todd Harrison, a lawyer for Cohen, said at Friday's hearing there were thousands of documents seized that were likely privileged, and that many related to clients other than Trump.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson, Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel in New York, Writing by Jonathan Allen, Editing by Susan Thomas and Rosalba O'Brien)