Cohen said he acted on his own in paying Clifford. Trump agreed, saying he didn’t know about the payment. In this case, Cohen was not acting as Trump’s attorney in the transaction, and there is no attorney-client relationship since, according to the president, there are no communications in which he sought legal advice. Trump has essentially waived the attorney-client protection on this issue. Moreover, if any of the materials obtained were used in furtherance of a crime, they are subject to a crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.
His conviction that it was still in play, however, is probably a consequence of the way he and other affluent figures have long used attorney-client privilege as a preemptive shield. Whether they realize prosecutors have ways to navigate the attorney-client privilege, they know that getting around it is never easy.
.. This presumption of privilege can give cover to criminal actors. Well-heeled criminals often include attorneys in their illicit communications to shield their activity from discovery. Conversely, people who are familiar with the privilege often assume it’s stronger than it really is: Former White House aide Hope Hicks reportedly alarmed Mark Corallo, former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, when she made a potentially compromising statement without a lawyer present and thus — in Corallo’s view — unprotected by the attorney-client privilege. The mere presence of a lawyer would not, in practice, have made the conversation legally privileged. Nevertheless, Corallo’s assumption that it could have shielded the comment from discovery speaks to the way Trump and his ilk have attempted to take advantage of attorney-client privilege.
Trump had hoped diGenova could serve as a surrogate in television interviews and play the role of attack dog in criticizing the Mueller probe.
Sekulow approached diGenova two weeks ago about joining the team, but it turned out that he and his wife run a law firm that represents clients with interests that would conflict with those of the president... One is Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team and a witness in the Mueller investigation. He resigned in the wake of a dispute over the president’s role in a misleading statement about his campaign aides’ meeting with a Russian lawyer offering “dirt” on 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to the three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting — in which the younger Mr. Trump said he was eager to receive political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians — “will never get out.” That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.
In a statement on Wednesday, a lawyer for Ms. Hicks strongly denied Mr. Corallo’s allegations.
.. President Trump’s aides received the list midflight on Air Force One on the way back from the summit meeting and began writing a response. In the plane’s front cabin, Mr. Trump huddled with Ms. Hicks. During the meeting, according to people familiar with the episode, Ms. Hicks was sending frequent text messages to Donald Trump Jr., who was in New York. Alan Garten, a lawyer for the younger Mr. Trump who was also in New York, was also messaging with White House advisers aboard the plane... The president supervised the writing of the statement, according to three people familiar with the episode, with input from other White House aides. A fierce debate erupted over how much information the news release should include. Mr. Trump was insistent about including language that the meeting was about Russian adoptions, according to two people with knowledge of the discussion... “It was a short introductory meeting,” it read. “I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up.”
According to four people familiar with the discussions, Donald Trump Jr. had insisted that the word “primarily” be included in the statement.
.. Mr. Corallo, the spokesman for the legal team, said in that story that the Russians had “misrepresented who they were and who they worked for.” He, along with the rest of the president’s legal team, was not consulted about Donald Trump Jr.’s statement before it was released.
He suggested that the meeting might have been set up by Democratic operatives, connecting one of the Russians in the meeting, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, to the research firm that helped produce an unverified dossier that contained salacious allegations about Mr. Trump’s connections to Russia.
.. Accusations began flying that the botched response made an already bad situation worse. Ms. Hicks called Mr. Corallo, according to three people who relayed his version of events to The Times. She accused him of trafficking in conspiracy theories and drawing more attention to the story.
.. The conference call with the president, Mr. Corallo and Ms. Hicks took place the next morning, and what transpired on the call is a matter of dispute.
In Mr. Corallo’s account — which he provided contemporaneously to three colleagues who later gave it to The Times — he told both Mr. Trump and Ms. Hicks that the statement drafted aboard Air Force One would backfire because documents would eventually surface showing that the meeting had been set up for the Trump campaign to get political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians.
.. According to his account, Ms. Hicks responded that the emails “will never get out” because only a few people had access to them. Mr. Corallo, who worked as a Justice Department spokesman during the George W. Bush administration, told colleagues he was alarmed not only by what Ms. Hicks had said — either she was being naïve or was suggesting that the emails could be withheld from investigators — but also that she had said it in front of the president without a lawyer on the phone and that the conversation could not be protected by attorney-client privilege.
.. Even if Mr. Corallo is correct and Ms. Hicks was hinting at an attempt to conceal the emails, doing so would have been nearly impossible. Congress had requested records from Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman; Mr. Kushner; and other Trump campaign officials about meetings with Russians. And lawyers had already copied and stamped the emails for delivery to Capitol Hill.
.. When the president began questioning Mr. Corallo about the nature of the documents, Mr. Corallo cut off the conversation and urged the president to continue the discussion with his lawyers.
Mr. Corallo told colleagues that he immediately notified the legal team of the conversation and jotted down notes to memorialize it. He also shared his concerns with Stephen K. Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist.