The invasive search will have a chilling effect.
Is the old guard — The Swamp — trying to take down President Trump by targeting his personal attorney? Was the raid on Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room a desperate attempt to get something on the president? Special Counsel Robert Mueller can’t find collusion, and Trump’s enemies are desperately trying to find something, anything, else to nail him with.
Despite the fact that the president oversees the FBI and the DOJ, there are many anti-Trump holdovers left in both agencies. Rod Rosenstein, for one. Acting as Attorney General since Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, he signed off on the raid. Many have questioned his loyalty to Trump.
The search was done in response to a tip by Mueller in response to Cohen’s claim that he arranged for payments to two women. The payments bought their silence about their alleged affairs with the married Trump. He said Trump knew nothing about the payments. Asked why Cohen made one of the payments, Trump said, “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.” Cohen admits he made the payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, but denies Trump had an affair.
American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model. A friend and supporter of Trump’s owns the company. Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels. He made the payment just 11 days before the presidential election. Bank records revealed he set up a Delaware LLC called Essential Solutions just weeks before the payment was made to Daniels from the LLC. He said Trump did not pay him back.
Daniels is now trying to get out of the nondisclosure she signed. The search warrant also asked for records related to New York City taxi cab medallions that Cohen owns. Cohen reportedly owes $53,836 in taxes on them.
Trump tweeted angrily about the raid.
Attorney–client privilege is dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
Cohen used a home equity line of credit to borrow the $130,000 he paid Daniels. If Cohen lied to obtain credit from the bank, he could be charged with a felony. If the payment is found to be an unreported in-kind contribution to Trump’s campaign, he could face a second felony charge. Legal ethics rules largely bar lawyers from settling a claim without their clients’ knowledge. The rules also bar them from using their own money to fund settlements.
Unusual Overruling of Attorney-Client Privilege
This type of information is generally protected by attorney-client privilege. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who did not vote for Trump, observed that if the search relates “to payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, that would not seem to justify so potentially intrusive a search of Cohen’s confidential lawyer-client files.” It’s rare for federal law enforcement to serve a search warrant on an attorney in a case as high-profile as this one, he says. They could have obtained the documents through a private subpoena.
A lawyer is usually raided only if the lawyer may be in on the crime. The “crime-fraud exception” allows prosecutors to use privileged material if it shows a client intended to further or cover up a crime. But it is generally used against lawyers who serve organized crime. To get a warrant, prosecutors must show the judge that there is a danger evidence will be tampered with.
Dershowitz noted on Fox and Friends, “This may be an attempt to squeeze Cohen — he’s the lawyer, he’s the guy who knows all the facts about Donald Trump — and to get him to turn against his client.”
Prosecutors also requested similar documents from the Trump Organization.
The Real Agenda
There is a war going on. The old guard is trying to destroy Trump before Trump is able to expose and prosecute them. Many believe this is related to the Congressional probe into the fake Trump dossier. Officials wrongly used it to obtain a FISA warrant to wiretap the Trump campaign.
The bold move was also likely meant to scare Trump into firing Mueller. If Trump fires Mueller, there would be a brutal backlash. Trump told reporters after the raid that he was considering it.
Victoria Toensing, who almost became Trump’s legal counsel, expressed her outrage to The Daily Beast. “It is outrageous, and it’s an attempt to take down the president which is why Mueller’s got all Democrats on his staff,”she said. “It is highly unethical.”
Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, declared, “Under the ruse of investigating Russian collusion, his critics have used the United States Justice Department as a political tool to target his friends, supporters, family, and now his attorney, Michael Cohen, to accomplish their end game — the destruction and annihilation of a sitting U.S. president.”
Since this isn’t the type of activity prosecutors would normally request a search warrant for, it is very troubling. It will have a chilling effect on clients confiding in their lawyers. And as we’ve seen with Trump’s failure to hire more lawyers recently, it will scare lawyers from working for high-profile public officials.
Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.