Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Is Michael Cohen In Real Trouble?


Mike Allen reporting for Axios yesterday says Trump is flipping out over the raid on Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room. He's blaming Mueller and Rosenstein. Allen says this came from an inside source: "Until now, when storms hit, Trump could turn to Hope Hicks to explain things to him, suggest wording, simmer him down. With her departure from the White House, we saw the president working out his fury in real time... This is the first crisis post-Hope Hicks... This was different: I've never seen him like this before... This is the president you're going to see more of from here on out: unvarnished, untethered."

Allen reiterates that the Washington Post, citing three sources, reports that Cohen "is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations." Señor Trumpanzee is taking it personally and sees it as "the red line" of intrusion into personal financial matters. During that fabulous rant we ran Monday night, Señor T used "disgrace" seven times and "disgraceful twice; fumed about an action by agents of the government he heads: "I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys-- a good man... It's a total witch hunt;" and accused those agents of his government of "an attack on our country, in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for."

One of the things Trump is going nuts over is that one of his own appointees, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, signed off on the FBI raids of Cohen and that another of his appointees, Geoffrey Berman, recused himself from the Cohen investigation. Trump, as everyone knows by now, hates recusals snd thinks everyone should fight with everything they're got (to protect him from the law).

So was it a fishing expedition? Of course not; they would never have gotten the go-ahead from Rosenstein, nor the warrants, if it was. So what were they looking for? Reports say they were looking for records about payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Señor T, documents related to Cohen’s ownership of taxi medallions (which is mixed up with Cohn's shady and notorious connections with the Russian mafia), and information regarding broken election laws. So why is this such a big deal? Adam Serwer offered some possibilities at The Atlantic yesterday.
Whatever evidence federal prosecutors have collected concerning Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime attorney, it is most likely extraordinarily strong.

Before federal agents raided Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office Monday afternoon, they would have had to convince high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice and a federal judge that a search warrant was necessary to obtain the evidence sought.

“Doing a search warrant rather than a subpoena suggests the investigators thought Cohen, if given a subpoena, would possibly destroy evidence or withhold key evidence, particularly if it were incriminating,” Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said.

Under normal circumstances, obtaining a search warrant on an attorney for the subject of a federal investigation is an incredibly aggressive move. When the attorney’s client is the president of the United States, the stakes couldn’t possibly get any higher.

...The raid was reportedly conducted after Mueller went to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with evidence, and Rosenstein referred the matter to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey Berman (Berman reportedly recused himself). According to the Times, federal agents seized “business records, emails, and documents related to several topics,” including Cohen’s payment to Daniels, and “privileged communications” between Cohen and his clients, according to Cohen’s attorney.

“You don’t just have to have the evidence that the documents may or may not exist, you have to show that there’s no other way to get them besides serving a warrant on the attorney, because of the sensitivity of attorney-client privilege,” David Gomez, a former FBI agent and a fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted “WITCH HUNT” and “Attorney–client privilege is dead!”

Some of the president’s supporters in the conservative press have been invoking attorney-client privilege, the legal rule that says communications between an attorney and a client are typically protected. But there are important exceptions.

“Records of conversations between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump are not necessarily privileged,” Bruce Green, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Fordham University, said. “If the conversations do not relate to a legal representation, but Mr. Cohen was providing business assistance or other non-legal services, the privilege probably will not apply.”

There is also something known as the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege. “When the communications between an attorney and client are in furtherance of criminal activity, it’s viewed as an exception to attorney-client privilege,” Barrett said.

In cases where an attorney’s records are seized, a separate team of federal investigators, known as a “taint team,” will go through those records and sort out which are protected, and which prosecutors will be allowed to see or use. “There are various other limitations and exceptions that could make the privilege inapplicable. If it isn’t clear whether documents are privileged, the issue may get litigated,” Green said.

One thing prosecutors are reportedly examining are Cohen’s payments to Daniels. Cohen has said he drew on his home-equity line of credit from First Republic Bank in Manhattan to obtain the funds. Even if the evidence seized from Cohen was sought for a different investigation, if federal prosecutors uncover evidence related to the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, Mueller will have access to it. “Whatever the returns of these searches are, if relevant to Mueller’s work, it will become available to him,” Barrett said.

Trump was furious about the raid, calling the move “an attack on our country, in a true sense,” and “an attack on what we all stand for.” He also said that the prosecutors involved “have the biggest conflicts of interest I have ever seen. Democrats—all. Either Democrats or a couple of Republicans who worked for President Obama.”

Being a Republican, of course, has never stopped Trump from calling for criminal investigations of his Democratic political rivals, no matter how flimsy the pretext. But as my colleague David Graham points out, virtually all the major players involved here are Republicans. Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by George W. Bush to run the FBI. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is an appointee of Trump himself, and so is Chris Wray, the current director of the FBI. Berman, the U.S. attorney whose office executed the raid, is a former law partner to Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, who was hand-picked by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The warrant sought not only would have had to have been approved by officials at the Department of Justice, but a federal judge would have had to sign off on it, knowing that he would be sanctioning a raid against the personal attorney of a sitting president.

Evidently, they all signed off anyway.
Louis XIV said it long before Señor Trumpanzee: "L'État, c'est moi." Same mentality, that's for sure.

More Robert Mueller stuff pertaining to Trump-Putin-World that just happened since I first started writing this post:
The new Quinnipiac poll came out and most voters (69-13%) say Trumpanzee should NOT fire Mueller. In fact, just 30% of Republicans say Trump should fire him!
Trump claims he has the power to fire Mueller, which he doesn't
Republicans in Congress are pretending they don't want Trump to fire Mueller. They say he "better" not (woof, woof) but they refuse to pass a law preventing him from doing so.
The NY Times reported that Trump is near a "meltdown [and that his] public and private wrath about the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election are nothing new. But the raids on Monday on Mr. Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room have sent the president to new heights of outrage, setting the White House on edge as it faces a national security crisis in Syria and more internal staff churn."

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