Mueller Goes After Trump's Attorney
The FBI raided the office and home of his personal lawyer, who's at the center of Trump's Stormy affair.
On Monday, the FBI conducted no-knock raids on the office and home of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, taking his phone, computer and personal financial records. The Washington Post reported that Cohen “is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations,” and that this raid is directly tied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation — though Mueller did refer it to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Upon learning of the raid, a clearly frustrated Trump responded by calling it “a disgrace.” He added, “I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now or longer. It’s an attack on our country in a true sense; it’s an attack on what we all stand for.” Trump then reiterated that he has been repeatedly urged to fire Mueller and end the investigation.
Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, called the FBI’s raid tactics “inappropriate and unnecessary,” pointing out that Cohen has “cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
Cohen has long been a subject/target of the Mueller investigation because of his close working relationship with Trump over the years. When the story broke about Trump’s alleged 2006 affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and a subsequent large payment of hush money, Cohen defended Trump, claiming that Trump had no knowledge of the payment, which Cohen had paid out of his own pocket, and that he was not reimbursed by Trump. And last week Trump backed up this claim, saying he had no knowledge of a payment to Daniels. Cohen further explained, “The payment to [Stephanie] Clifford [a.k.a. Daniels] was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Harvard Law professor, reacted to the news, saying, “This is a very dangerous day today for lawyer-client relations.” He explained, “I tell [clients] on my word of honor that what you tell me is sacrosanct. And now they say, just based on probable cause … they can burst into the office, grab all the computers and then give it to another FBI agent and say, ‘You’re the firewall. We want you now to read all these confidential communications, tell us which ones we can get and which ones we can’t get.’” Dershowitz astutely noted, “If this were Hillary Clinton being investigated and they went into her lawyer’s office, the ACLU would be on every television station in America, jumping up and down. The deafening silence from the ACLU and civil libertarians about the intrusion into the lawyer-client confidentiality is really appalling.” There is, of course, a big exception to attorney-client privilege when it comes to crime, but this instance is murky.
Indeed, as Jonah Goldberg observes, “The fact that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman agreed with Mueller’s interpretation and sought a warrant from a judge and that the judge agreed to grant one suggests that Cohen is in trouble.”
Once again it appears that Mueller is hard at work seeking a serious charge of campaign-finance violation against Trump. So much for the Russian collusion gambit, but as we have repeatedly warned, these special investigations are given such broad authority and power to investigate that they rarely actually bring charges based on their initial impetus. And yet they rarely come up empty-handed either. Trump’s low moral character only makes that more likely.
Update: Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy writes, “The rap on Mueller (including from your humble correspondent) has been that his investigation has no limits. In this instance, though, when a potential crime completely unrelated to his Russia probe fell into his lap, the special counsel took a pass. Mueller referred the matter to the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York (the SDNY, in Manhattan, where I worked as a prosecutor for nearly 20 years). This was appropriate: The campaign-finance matter has nothing to do with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election; and Cohen’s law practice, which is the focus of the investigation involving the payment to Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford), is in the SDNY.” That does not, however, mean Mueller played no role in ensuring this raid happened. Indeed, he instigated the matter.