In case you missed it yesterday, F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen; Trump Calls It ‘Disgraceful’ reported the New York Times, and the Washington Post adds Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations.
There are two parts to the Times’ story. The first is the FBI raid on Cohen’s office and temporary residence in a Park Avenue hotel. Apparently, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team found something about Cohen that Mueller judged to be outside of his purview. Whatever that was passed along to the Justice Department and then to the Manhattan prosecutors.
The prosecutors obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, according to 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.
In those raids, the FBI seized “business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress”, the latter being a reference to Stormy Daniels.
To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a federal judge that agents are likely to discover evidence of criminal activity.
The searches are a significant intrusion by prosecutors into the dealings of one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants, and they pose a dilemma for Mr. Trump. He has dismissed Mr. Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” but these warrants were obtained by an unrelated group of prosecutors. The searches required prior consultation with senior members of Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department.
So the FBI action was grounded in permission from FBI higher-ups. This is the most recent item in the list of problems Trump faces.
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 former 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.
Assuming the above, that the raids were legally warranted, Mueller’s action is a help to his investigation in two other ways. The new searches could uncover evidence related to Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Though Mr. Mueller’s team did not initiate the search, if prosecutors in Manhattan uncover information related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, they can share that information with his team.
And, interestingly, the searches provide evidence that Muller respects the limits on the scope of his investigation.
It is not clear what Mr. Mueller saw that made him refer the matter to other prosecutors. But the searches show that Mr. Mueller does not believe that he has the authority to investigate all manner of allegations against everyone in Mr. Trump’s orbit. That is significant because lawyers for Paul Manafort, a campaign chairman for Mr. Trump who was indicted on money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying charges, have challenged Mr. Mueller’s mandate as overly broad.
The second part of the headline is about Trump’s reaction. Last night Rachel Maddow reported that Trump threw a tantrum (my word) upon hearing of the raids. He then used a meeting with his military and security teams to vent against Mueller, the justice department (Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein), Democrats, (oh, hell no - again!) Hillary Clinton, and, of course, the FBI.
In his tirade against the F.B.I., Mr. Trump mused about the possibility that he might soon fire Mr. Mueller. Last June, the president vented internally about wanting to fire Mr. Mueller, but was talked out of it.
“We’ll see what may happen,” Mr. Trump said Monday. “Many people have said you should fire him.”
The president once again railed against Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself in the Russia inquiry, and blasted the F.B.I. for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, “where there are crimes.” He criticized Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, and called Mr. Mueller’s team “the most biased group of people,” who he said were mostly Democrats and some Republicans who had worked for President Barack Obama.
Feeling the pressure, are we?
AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) IDs “many people” in his post Follow the money: FBI raids the office of Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen:
Pro Tip: “Many people” means the GOPropagandists at FOX News. See Charles Blow today, Horror of Being Governed by ‘Fox & Friends’: “In a way, America is being governed by the dimmest of wits on the most unscrupulous of networks. The very thought of it is horror-inducing.” Trump’s propaganda minister at FOX News, Sean Hannity, will go totally insane over this. Will Trump follow his lead?
The prospects for a “Saturday night massacre” at the Department of Justice to get down to firing the Special Counsel just increased a hundred fold. We are on “Mueller Firing Watch” now.