On Monday, the F.B.I. raided the offices of President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, reportedly seizing records and emails relating to several separate topics.
Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” said Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s own lawyer. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
Ryan went on to call the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” though he said that Cohen has been cooperating with authorities.
According to the New York Times, who first broke the story, the warrant used in the search and seizure of Cohen’s files was not directly related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign staff and a Russian effort to influence the 2016 election, but instead likely resulted from information that had been uncovered throughout the process of Mueller’s investigation.
Reports indicate that correspondence relating to an alleged affair between Donald Trump and Stephanie Clifford, who works as a pornographic actress under the pseudonym Stormy Daniels, was seized during the raid. The relationship reportedly took place well before Trump took office, though questions have been made about a $130,000 payment made to Clifford, likely in exchange for her secrecy. Allegations have been raised that the payment may have violated presidential campaign finance laws, though Cohen asserts that he made the payment by establishing his own limited liability corporation and then paying her through it using his own funds.
The alleged affair reportedly took place in 2006, though the payment was made to Clifford just prior to the onset of the 2016 election. President Trump has claimed to have no knowledge of the payment, which coincided with a non-disclosure agreement Clifford is now fighting to be released from. That agreement was tailored with the election specifically in mind, going so far as to stipulate in writing that the agreement be returned signed a week prior to election day and that Clifford take specific actions to prevent her story from being revealed.
While many have questioned the validity of concerns regarding a potential extramarital affair that took place well before Trump ever took office, legal issues may arise if the payment was made in such a manner that would violate campaign finance law; similar in theory to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, which were not the result of an affair, but rather his alleged violation of the law in his effort to cover it up.
Other records seized in the raid included e-mails, tax documents and business records, including communications made directly between Cohen and President Trump. That correspondence, however, will present a challenge for investigators who will need to maneuver within the confines of the law pertaining to discussions between attorneys and their clients.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press