President Trump reacted angrily Monday to news that federal agents had raided the office and home of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen — calling the action “disgraceful” and describing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as “an attack on our country.”
.. “It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt,” said Trump, who claimed that he had “given over a million pages in documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward … and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. Actually it’s much more than that. You could say right after I won the [2016 Republican] nomination it started.”
Trump also accused Mueller’s investigators of being “the most biased group of people [with] the biggest conflicts of interest” and said Attorney General Jeff Sessions “made a terrible mistake for the country” when he recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation last year.
A source close to the White House told Fox News’ John Roberts that the raid showed that the Mueller investigation “is out of control” and was a “demonstration of bad faith” on the part of the special counsel.
.. Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, said Monday’s raid was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and was based at least partly on a referral from Mueller.
.. A source close to the Trump legal team told Fox News’ Catherine Herridge that the raid on Cohen was “aggressive” and designed to “squeeze the president.” The source, who has knowledge of talks between Mueller and the president’s legal team, added that the raid “puts a fork in” the prospect of Trump agreeing to be interviewed by the special counsel.
.. Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller is required to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then would determine whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or another part of the Justice Department.
.. “Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” asked Trump, repeating a reporter’s question to him Monday night. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens, but I think it’s really a sad situation when you look at what happened.
“And many people have said, ‘You should fire him.'” Trump added. “… So we’ll see what happens … this is a pure and simple witch hunt.”
I am more interested in reports that business records, connected to Manafort’s taxes and foreign bank transactions, were the object of the raid ordered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That seems peculiar if the rationale for ordering a home search, rather than simply issuing a subpoena, was fear that Manafort would destroy evidence.
It makes perfect sense, though, if the prosecutor is playing hardball.
.. We should further note that the president had the authority to fire the acting FBI director at any time. There was no need for Trump to wait on AG Sessions, nor did anything prevent him from ordering Sessions to fire McCabe if that’s what he wanted done.
.. So, essentially, Trump’s tweet was a rant — nothing new there. Was it a rant triggered by the Manafort search? If so, it was Trump at his paper-tiger worst: He wanted McCabe gone but, knowing that many of his troubles stem from botching Comey’s firing, he could not risk firing McCabe — so in a fit of pique he lashed out at Sessions. And he’d love to fire Mueller, but he knows that would be a political earthquake his presidency might not survive — so in a fit of pique he lashed out at McCabe.
.. Manafort labored many years, at apparently lush compensation, for the Kremlin-backed cabal responsible for Ukraine’s ongoing tumult. That happened well prior to the 2016 campaign, but it has always been very disturbing. If Trump is telling the truth about having no meaningful ties to Putin, he should be encouraging the investigation of Manafort, not acting like he’s incensed by it.
.. the New York Times reported that the warrant sought tax documents and foreign banking records.
.. Search warrants are reserved for situations in which the prosecutor and agents reasonably fear that the subjects of the probe will destroy evidence if they know investigators are sniffing around. And search warrants executed in predawn hours are generally reserved for situations in which agents are dealing with hardened or desperate criminals — subjects who might not merely destroy evidence but endanger the agents who knock on the door; subjects who might alert other conspirators to flee if searches commence when everyone is awake and alert.
.. When a subject is cooperating with investigators, search warrants are wholly unnecessary and excessively intrusive.
.. Mueller’s team could easily have gotten the same disclosure without resorting to a search warrant. They need only have asked Manafort’s lawyers, who’d have had no reason to decline, especially after giving the same information to Congress.
.. That was not good enough for Mueller. This could mean either or both of two things: (1) Mueller believed Manafort was hoarding relevant evidence and might destroy it if it were not taken forcibly from him; and/or (2) Mueller has a message for Manafort: The special counsel is not limiting his inquiry to the Russia investigation that Congress has been pursuing; rather, Mueller intends to scorch the earth as necessary to make a case — any case — on Manafort, for purposes of squeezing him to become a cooperating witness against others, potentially including the president.
.. I believe Manafort is being squeezed. I’ve squeezed bad guys before. It’s not illegal, it’s effective, and if you’re a prosecutor dealing with a real bad guy, it’s righteous. Is Manafort that kind of bad guy? We don’t know what Mueller knows. But we can reasonably surmise that Mueller’s investigation is not confined to Russian meddling in the 2016 election — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s protestations notwithstanding.