President Trump’s advisers have concluded that a wide-ranging corruption investigation into his personal lawyer poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel’s investigation, according to several people close to Mr. Trump.
.. Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated in mounting a response. He continued to struggle to hire a new criminal lawyer, and some of his own aides were reluctant to advise him about a response for fear of being dragged into a criminal investigation themselves.
.. In addition to searching his home, office and hotel room, F.B.I. agents seized material from Mr. Cohen’s cellphones, tablet, laptop and safe deposit box
.. Prosecutors revealed in court documents that they had already secretly obtained many of Mr. Cohen’s emails.
Mr. Trump called Mr. Cohen on Friday to “check in,” according to two people briefed on the call. Depending on what else was discussed, the call could be problematic, as lawyers typically advise their clients against discussing investigations.
.. The lawyers fear that Mr. Cohen will not be forthcoming with them about what was in his files, leaving them girding for the unknown.
.. Mr. Cohen argued that he or an independent lawyer should be allowed to review the documents first.
.. Joanna C. Hendon, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said in court. “I’m not trying to delay. I’m just trying to ensure that it’s done scrupulously.”
Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, wrote in a court filing that the search “creates constitutional concerns regarding officers of the executive branch rummaging through the private and privileged papers of the president.”
.. Prosecutors argued that the previously seized emails revealed that Mr. Cohen was “performing little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged with President Trump.” They said their investigation was focused on Mr. Cohen’s business dealings, not his work as a lawyer.
.. And the New York search warrant makes clear that the authorities are interested in his unofficial role in the campaign.
.. Prosecutors demanded all communication with the campaign — and in particular two advisers, Corey Lewandowski and Hope Hicks
.. Mr. Cohen had secretly made, but he told people in recent days that he did not tape his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen frequently taped conversations with adversaries and opposing lawyers
.. Trump has considered firing Mr. Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein.
.. prosecutors said they had found evidence of fraud and a “lack of truthfulness”
.. Mr. Trump has viewed any investigation of his business and private life to be off limits to prosecutors, but the search warrants make clear that investigators consider those topics part of their case.
President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.
.. Investigators were also looking for any records related to adult-film star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both received payments after alleged affairs with Trump.
.. Legal experts said Cohen’s taped conversations would be viewed by prosecutors as highly valuable.
“If you are looking for evidence, you can’t do any better than people talking on tape,” said Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor.
Such recordings “would be considered a gold mine,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who specializes in legal ethics.
“The significance is 9.5 to 10 on a 10-point scale,” he added, noting that investigators know “that when people speak on the phone, they are not guarded. They don’t imagine that the conversation will surface.”
Federal investigators would not automatically get access to any tapes that might have been seized in the raids. First, the recordings would be reviewed by a separate Justice Department team and possibly by a federal judge.
.. Cohen wanted his business calls on tape so he could use them later as leverage, one person said. Cohen frequently noted that under New York law, only one party had to consent to the taping of a conversation, this person added.During the 2016 race, Cohen — who did not have a formal role on the campaign — had a reputation among campaign staff as someone to avoid, in part because he was believed to be secretly taping conversations.
.. One outside Trump adviser said Cohen may have begun recording his conversations in an attempt to emulate his boss, who has long boasted — often with no evidence — about secretly taping private conversations.
.. “Back in the early 2000s, Trump used to tell me all the time that he was recording me when I covered him as reporter for the New York Times,” O’Brien wrote.
.. But after Trump sued him for libel shortly after his biography came out, O’Brien’s lawyers deposed Trump in December 2007 — during which Trump admitted he had not, in fact, clandestinely taped O’Brien.
“I’m not equipped to tape-record,” Trump said in the deposition. “I may have said it once or twice to him just to — on the telephone, because everything I said to him he’d write incorrectly; so just to try and keep it honest.”
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the federal raid on Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s home and office shows the Russia probe continues to focus on people other than the president.
Spicer warned Trump to “let the process play out” when it comes to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the president and Russia.
“I’d urge the president to listen to his counsel,” Spicer said. “The investigation continues to not focus on him or [on] collusion.”
Spicer said Trump should not worry about speaking about the actions of other subjects of the probe, like Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort... [The Obama administration asked the RNC and DNC to express confidence in the election security, but had talked to Illinois officials and others about Russian attempts to hack their elections. ]
Attorney-Client privilege would not apply if there is unlawful activity between the lawyer and client.
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.”
The F.B.I. raided the office and hotel room of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Monday, seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including payments to a pornographic film actress.
.. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating Mr. Cohen for possible bank fraud, and the documents identified in the warrant date back years
.. Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.”
.. The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but most likely resulted from information that he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.
.. “Today the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” said Stephen Ryan
.. Mr. Trump reacted angrily to the raid. “It’s a disgraceful situation,” he told reporters at the White House before a meeting with military leaders. He added, “I have this witch hunt constantly going on.”
.. Agents raided space Mr. Cohen uses in the Rockefeller Center office of the law firm Squire Patton Boggs, as well as a room Mr. Cohen is staying at the Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue
.. In order to obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a federal judge that agents are likely to discover evidence of criminal activity.
.. The searches open a new front for the Justice Department in its scrutiny of Mr. Trump and his associates: His longtime lawyer is being investigated in Manhattan; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is facing scrutiny by prosecutors in Brooklyn; his campaign chairman is under indictment; his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying; and a pair of former campaign aides are cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller, meanwhile, wants to interview Mr. Trump about possible obstruction of justice.
.. The search is an aggressive move for the Justice Department, which normally relies on grand jury subpoenas to obtain records from people who are represented by lawyers and are cooperating with authorities. Search warrants are more often used in cases in which prosecutors do not trust people to preserve or turn over the records themselves.
.. The seized records include communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, which would likely require a special team of agents to review because conversations between lawyers and clients are protected from scrutiny in most instances.
.. He attracted attention in the Russia investigation after emails showed that a business associate of Mr. Trump, Felix Sater, pitched Mr. Cohen on a lucrative real estate deal in Russia.
.. The deal was supposed to be a Trump Tower in Moscow and Mr. Sater boasted to Mr. Cohen that the tower would get Mr. Trump elected president. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” But the emails obtained by The New York Times show no response from Mr. Cohen, who told congressional investigators that he regarded Mr. Sater’s talk as puffery.
.. As a lawyer of 35 years, this is one of the most significant developments in the Mueller investigation.
It is extraordinarily hard to convince a judge, who is a former lawyer himself or herself, to pierce the attorney/client privilege and work product doctrine to issue a subpoena and seize material subject to those sacred protections.
The judge must be convinced that Cohen’s records will demonstrate substantial criminal activity.
This may be “Black Monday” for Donald Trump.
.. Remember that phrase Joe Biden got caught saying on mike that time? This is one of those.
Getting a search warrant for a lawyer’s files is a BIG, BIG deal. It requires sign-off from either the US Attorney or an Assistant AG, consultation with main justice in DC, and consideration of other, less-intrusive methods of getting the information. And that’s before the warrant goes to the judge. Judges tend to be very protective of attorney-client confidentiality and are very skeptical of such requests even in routine cases, let alone when the request is for a warrant for the client files of the personal attorney to the President of the United States.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Cohen’s legal trouble just went all the way to 11.
.. The plot thickens. Trump keeps talking about collusion. It’s the money laundering and related financial activities he should be worried about. It’s the payoffs and bribes he should be worried about. It’s the threats he should be worried about.
.. Trump said many times, do not investigate the family business! Big red line. Gosh! Why would he say that? Looks like we are about to find out.
.. Remember this, Republicans; President Clinton’s impeachment over sex-related perjury began with an investigation into a real estate deal. YOU set this standard of expansive investigations. YOU laid the groundwork for this. Any cries that this exceeds Mueller’s authority and mission should be accompanied by your profound apologies to the country for what you have done. Otherwise, reap the whirlwind.
.. And now, the American people get to learn about the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.
.. I’ll bet they included records regarding Cohen’s negotiation of a hotel deal in Moscow for Trump during the election when Trump said he had no business in Russia. It would seem such a Moscow deal would fit right into the areas of inquiry of Mr. Mueller.
.. The noose tightens… Expect the obligatory military strike on Syria as another in a long list of “Look – a puppy!” diversion is perpetrated on the all-too-gullible American public.
.. As Richard Nixon would put it, people have the right to know if their president is a crook.
.. The privileged communications between an attorney and his/her clients may be seized legally as part of an investigation by a special prosecutor. Completely legal. Very sorry the whiny lawyer of the lawyer doesn’t want to admit it. The truth of everything involved with this investigation will be made known. Be patient.
.. Just as in the cases of Manafort et al. (and that dossier) many will scream that this is way beyond Mueller’s powers.
But, best as I read, he IS entitled to follow up on almost EVERY crime he finds when doing his work on collusion and such.
Capone didn’t go down for murders, he was convicted on tax fraud.
.. For all those Trumpsters hanging out here disparaging Mueller, this action is totally within the scope of the Russia investigation. Remember Mr. Cohen was already reportedly involved in brokering a Trump business project in Moscow and had been also involved with a Ukrainian lawmaker passing a pro-Russian peace proposal from a Ukrainian lawmaker to Michael Flynn, so it is very likely that Cohen has been resisting handing over documents that the Special Counsel wanted to review, and this was the most appropriate way of going about getting the information they were after. The Daniels stuff isn’t even in the same league as the types of possible crimes that Mueller may be investigating. Uncovering an unlawful international money laundering racket alone would be fair game for Mueller and his team. Think about this for a second. What would a personal attorney for Donald Trump be doing in Russia in January 2016 in the midst of a presidential campaign when Trump had not even locked up the nomination yet. Come on people! There is something very rotten in Trumpland. The Stormy Daniels case is just a small sideshow that is eating up oxygen in the media. Follow the Cohen.
.. There must be a multi-million dollar overseas fund with Cohen’s name on it
.. It isn’t just the facts of the case that determine when they will act and how; they also are studying their foe.
.. As of the past week or a little longer, Trump has no personal support, no one person in place he can trust and confide in, no one who can temper his outbursts and his tendencies to blindly and stupidly lash out. They know it and are counting on it – the case doesn’t rely solely on this, but who the opposition is and how they act/react, who their support lines are, who their attorneys are…it all has its own bit of importance. Trump is now on his own, if and how much we as a country suffer for this before the insanity ends is a guess.