Now that the FBI has raided the office, house and hotel room of Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer in relation to a hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, the alleged affair between Trump and Stormy has gone criminal, and that has Trump on the warpath.
From a political standpoint, that makes the Daniels story impossible for Republicans to simply dismiss as tawdry hearsay. From a legal standpoint, it puts Michael Cohen in serious jeopardy and places the potential for criminal wrongdoing just an arm’s length away from Trump. The Washington Post writes:
Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations, according to a person familiar with the case.
During a meeting with his national security team, Trump took time for a spontaneous reaction to the news that involved constant repetition of words like “witch-hunt” and “disgrace” and “no collusion” and “Hillary Clinton.”
“So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man and it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch-hunt,” Trump said, grousing that no one was looking into the “horrible things” that Hillary Clinton did (which isn’t true, btw, Sessions does have a U.S. Attorney looking into it). Trump proceeded to take potshots at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself,” Trump said. Then he meandered into recounting that Rosenstein recommended firing James Comey and signed off “on the FISA warrant,” presumably referring to the warrant to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
When Trump was asked by a reporter why he doesn’t just fire special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump responded: “Many people have said you should fire him.”
Just to step back and clarify Trump’s nonsense for a second, FBI agents didn’t break into Cohen’s office, they executed a search warrant. Additionally, Sessions had nothing to do with the raid—Bloomberg reports that Rosenstein made the decision about how to handle certain evidence the Mueller investigation turned up.
Mueller brought information involving Cohen to Rosenstein, who decided that the inquiry should be handled by federal prosecutors in New York, according to a person familiar with the situation.
It’s worth noting that, by all accounts of former U.S. Attorneys, the process to obtain a warrant to search the office of an attorney is especially arduous. Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Miriam Rocah told MSNBC that convincing a federal judge to approve such a warrant would require “many extra layers” and, at a base level, that judge would have to find probable cause that at least one or more crimes were committed at the location being searched.
The FBI reportedly seized financial records, emails, tax documents and business records. Some of the information will likely be deemed privileged communication between Cohen and his clients, but anything related to criminal activity loses the veil of attorney-client privilege.
Cohen is now undeniably central to Trump’s fate, perhaps even more so than Paul Manafort, who was also the recipient of an unexpected FBI raid before Mueller bombarded him with more than 40 indictments.
There’s simply no other way to read Trump’s impromptu comments about the raid than those of someone who was coming unglued by the news. Look out, America—this means war.