When the FBI raided the office and hotel room of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, agents were also looking for documentation related to the infamous Access Hollywood tape that was released in the final weeks of the election, according to the New York Times. The FBI reportedly also sought information on payments made to two women who allegedly had affairs with Trump, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and information about The National Enquirer’s hand in buying the women’s stories but never running them, effectively keeping them from the public eye.
Taken together, recent revelations about the FBI’s areas of interest suggest investigators are looking into a pattern of cover-ups and how Cohen might fit into such a pattern. Though the Access Hollywood tape’s relation to Cohen doesn’t seem as direct as the hush money paid to Daniels and McDougal, the tape did surface around the same time Cohen made the payment to Daniels. Linking the timing could help prove that Cohen’s payment to Daniels was related to an effort to stem the fallout of stories related to Trump’s conduct with women. The Times writes:
It is not clear what role, if any, Mr. Cohen played regarding the tape, which was made public a month before the election. But the fact that the agents were seeking documents related to the tape reveals a new front in the investigation into Mr. Cohen that is being led by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. […]
The new details from the warrant reveal that prosecutors are keenly interested in Mr. Cohen’s unofficial role in the Trump campaign. And they help explain why Mr. Trump was furious about the raid. People close to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen regard the warrant as an attempt by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to pry into Mr. Trump’s personal life — using other prosecutors as his proxy.
Of course, taking an “unofficial role” in Trump’s campaign would take Cohen outside of the realm of lawyering, thus piercing his attorney-client privilege with Trump. In some ways, it would also put him in a similar category as the likes of Roger Stone and Carter Page, who have both sought to establish that their links to the campaign were more unofficial than official.
The other interesting point to remember about the Access Hollywood tape is that the Podesta emails started flowing from WikiLeaks within an hour of when Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” remarks first aired on October 7, 2016. As the Russia probe has grown, that timing has seemed more and more suspicious, especially given the Trump campaign’s (and even Trump’s!) strange embrace of WikiLeaks.
While this is completely theoretical, the Access Hollywood tape could serve two purposes: establishing that the Daniels payment was indeed related to the campaign’s effort to insulate Trump from further fallout over his treatment of women; and making some sort of connection between the time it aired and the sudden release of the Podesta emails.
Cohen was clearly the conduit for the first. Whether he had anything to do with the second is less clear, but still noteworthy.