In a letter to the presiding judge in the case against Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s long-time personal attorney, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Southern New York revealed today that it had obtained additional evidence for review—including a trove of messages and call logs from WhatsApp and Signal on one of two BlackBerry phones belonging to Cohen. The messages and call logs together constitute 731 pages of potential evidence. The FBI also recovered 16 pages of documents that had been shredded, but it has not yet been able to complete the extraction of data from the second phone.
The letter to Judge Kimba Wood stated that “the Government was advised that the FBI’s original electronic extraction of data from telephones did not capture content related to encrypted messaging applications, such as WhatsApp and Signal… The FBI has now obtained this material.”
This change is likely because of the way the messages are stored by the applications, not because the FBI had to break any sort of encryption on them. WhatsApp and Signal store their messages in encrypted databases on the device, so an initial dump of the phone would have only provided a cryptographic blob. The key is required to decrypt the contents of such a database, and there are tools readily available to access the WhatsApp database on a PC.
In a post to Twitter, attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Stormy Daniels in her suit against Cohen over a nondisclosure agreement regarding her alleged sexual encounters with Donald Trump, crowed about the new evidence.
See below – just filed in the search warrant case. The second and third bullets could pose a huge problem for Mr. Cohen and ultimately Mr. Trump (especially the third bullet)!!BTW, so much for encryption protection! #Basta pic.twitter.com/RwdYjLAEp2
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) June 15, 2018
The messages and logs were provided to Cohen’s attorneys today. Cohen has until June 25 to review the materials and make any claims of attorney-client privilege; after that, any messages he claims are protected will be reviewed by the Special Master, retired federal judge Barbara Jones.
Jones and Cohen’s attorneys have already reviewed an initial collection of data from two phones and an iPad. Jones ruled that out of 291,770 total items from those devices, “148 items are Privileged and/or Partially Privileged and that 7 items are Highly Personal.” But an additional 315 megabytes of data have been pulled from the first of the two BlackBerries, and its contents were delivered to Cohen’s attorneys on June 14. An unknown amount of data remains on the second BlackBerry.
“The Government will update the Court on the final BlackBerry extraction as soon as possible,” US Attorney Robert Khuzami wrote in the letter to Judge Wood.