The FBI raided the Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, seizing business records, emails and documents related to several matters, including payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
What’s going on here?
Your guess is as good as mine. The options are endless. Today, for example, the New York Times is reporting that the raid was in part to find records related to the infamous, Billy Bush “Access Hollywood” tape where Trump made his pussy-grabbing comments, according to the typical New York Times anonymous sources. What could that possibly have to do with Russia and its efforts to interfere with U.S. elections? Why would that material justify a raid on the President’s lawyer? The FBI also sought documents related to payments Cohen facilitated made to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump, Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, as well as information on the role of the publisher of The National Enquirer in silencing the women. The raid could be a desperation fishing expedition. It could be part of an effort to intimidate Trump’s lawyers. It could be a sign that there is evidence of actual criminal activity that Cohen was covering up on behalf of his client. It could be the last-ditch effort by a corrupt FBI and Justice Department to bring down a President before he can bring them down.. Anyone who claims to understand this unusual tactic by Special Prosecutor Mueller is engaging in confirmation bias, and risking looking like a biased fool.
- The raid better have been justified, or heads will roll. It is very rare for the Justice Department to seek a lawyer’s documents relating to a client. The United States attorneys’ manual tells investigators to exhaust all other ways of obtaining evidence first “to avoid impinging on valid attorney-client relationships.” It encourages using e a subpoena if possible, resorting to a search warrant only if unusual factors are present, such as if there is reason to believe the lawyer would destroy the evidence rather than turn it over.
We were told that Cohen was cooperating with authorities, so this is confusing.
- The danger that such a raid may expose privileged materials to breached confidentiality is significant. A defense lawyer could use such government over-reach get a case dismissed. Thus the Justice Department is supposed to create a separate “taint team” of officials who will vet the materials first. The taint team can’t tell their agents working on the case what they saw in any files that are deemed protected by the attorney-client privilege.
When the search is contested, a judge will be asked to review the materials the taint team decides are relevant to provide an objective ruling.
- Alan Dershowitz, who has emerged, with Jonathan Turley, as an unlikely critic of the Mueller investigation and the “Get Trump!” machinations generally, has written a brief arguing that the raid and its handling is unconstitutional. Indeed, he argues that even the use of a taint team is unconstitutional, and concludes,
An equally important harm is to important relationships that are protected by the law: between lawyer and client, priest and penitent, doctor and patient, husband and wife, etc. If an ordinary citizen, seeing that even the president’s confidential communications with his lawyer can be seized and perused, he or she will be far less willing to engage in such communications. As a society, we value such communications; that is why our laws protect them and that is why it should be extremely difficult for the government to intrude upon them, except as a last recourse in extremely important cases.
From what we know, this case does not meet those stringent standards. Much of the material sought by the warrant could probably be obtained through other sources, such as bank, tax and other records that are subject to subpoena. Moreover, the alleged crimes at issue – highly technical violations of banking and election laws – would not seem to warrant the extreme measure of a highly publicized search and seizure of records that may well include some that are subject to the lawyer/client privilege.
Someday soon, the government is going to have to justify its decision to conduct this raid. I challenge any reader who is not concerned about this raid to honestly answer the following question: If the raid had been conducted on Hillary Clinton’s lawyer’s office and home, would you be as unconcerned? The truth now!
- Make no mistake about it: Cohen is a sleazy lawyer. I first wrote about him in 2015, in a post titled, What A Surprise: Donald Trump Has An Unethical Lawyer! You will be amused, as I was, to revisit the last paragraph:
“For anyone who for some bizarre reason isn’t already convinced that Donald Trump is as qualified to be President as the average tolltaker in the Lincoln Tunnel, this is good test. Donald says that he is a tough boss who demands competence and a high level of performance from all employees. If Michael Cohen still has his job by this time next week, you’ll know how seriously to take that claim.”
Almost three years later, Cohen still is employed. Whatever trouble Cohen gets the President into now, nobody should have any sympathy for Trump.
- However, the gloating, projections and assumptions from the resistance, celebrities, the news media (“The Law is Coming, Mr. President!” is the title of a Times editorial) and other Trump haters is ridiculous, un-American, and vile except to other Trump haters. We read and heard the same thing when Manafort’s offices were raided. Now they have him! Now he’ll be impeached! Yippee! Yahoo!
How disgusting. I presume the innocence of and wish success to all Americans, especially our leaders, as all fair and equitable people do. I will root for President Trump for many reasons, one being that elected Presidents should be unimpeded while they try to do the hardest job in the world, another being that the resistance is playing dice with the Constitution and the stability of the nation, but also because the anti-Trump fanatics deserve to be disappointed, humiliated, and defeated.