Okay, folks, this is huge.
Michael Cohen’s office has been raided by the Feds. Not Mueller, but the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, who was appointed by Trump after a personal interview.
Searches of lawyers’ offices are not common. For one thing, they’re complicated. Lawyers hold lots of confidential information for clients, and keeping that information separate from the seizable data is tricky.
What we know so far is that according to the New York Times:
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, 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 likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.
The payments to Ms. Clifford are only one of many topics being investigated, according to a person briefed on the search. The F.B.I. also seized emails, tax documents, and business records, the person said.
The seized records include communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, which would likely require a special team of agents to review because conversations between lawyers and clients are protected from scrutiny in most instances.
Vanity Fair had this to say:
The arrival of F.B.I. agents at the Regency marks another dramatic escalation of the Mueller probe. While Trump’s allies have dismissed many of the people in the special counsel’s crosshairs as low-level campaign officials or waved away the charges against Paul Manafort as unrelated to Trump, Cohen is inextricably and emotionally linked to the Trump family. He worked in Trump Tower every day, and still remains one of Trump’s personal attorneys, though he left the Trump Organization around the presidential inauguration. Last summer, he told me he would “take a bullet for the president.”
Of course, if Cohen’s records do not contain privileged materials, the search is governed by ordinary probable cause standards. The Volokh Conspiracy discusses this very real possibility.
Former federal prosecutor Patrick Cotter said the dual denials “allowed the prosecutors seeking the search warrant for Cohen’s office to tell the approving court that the two people on Earth who might have claimed that anything related to Cohen’s actions in that regard was covered by attorney-client privilege are now both on-record denying that.”
Cotter added: “Trump’s statement certainly made it much easier to get the warrant for at least those materials related to the Stormy situation.”
And additionally, it means the communications are not privileged and Cohen may be forced to reveal them.
Here’s another explanation, from none other than the ABA:
The crime-fraud exception was first recognized in the United States over one hundred years ago, and the policy behind it is well-defined. (The crime-fraud exception was first recognized in the United States in Alexander v. U.S., 201 U.S. 117, 121 (1906).) The legal community does not deem discussions concerning future wrongdoings, such as fraud, that occur during an attorney-client communication worthy of protection. … While the practice of law encourages full and frank communications between the attorney and client, only communications concerning past wrongdoings are protected.
Source: No Attorney-Client Privilege for You: The Crime-Fraud Exception | Section of Litigation | Section of Litigation / Trial Practice
There are tweets floating around that Cohen’s residence was also searched.
MORE: Law enforcement agents conducted searches today at the New York office and New York residence of Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, seizing documents and other material, CBS News confirms https://t.co/u0nR9vWYAa pic.twitter.com/9v4yHRIUU5
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 9, 2018
Bloomberg reports that,
Mueller brought information involving Cohen to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who decided that the matter should be handled by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York rather than by Mueller’s team, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Liberal Twitter is atwitter over the news.
— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) April 9, 2018
Here’s my favorite:
Trump: "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen"
— Nunca Trump (@NeverTrumpTexan) April 9, 2018
Right wingers reacted predictably though this tweet, from a lawyer, is pretty strong stuff.
— Robert Barnes (@Barnes_Law) April 9, 2018
And this one from Irma Hinojosa sounds rather desperate. I can’t visualize Trump supporters hitting the streets over a search warrant.
FBI executes search warrants, raids Trumps lawyer Michael Cohen. The constant witch hunts should have signaled to American citizens the Left is weaponizing their institutional power. What’s left is for the populist Right to flex their power through street actions &demonstrations.
— Irma Hinojosa ?? (@irmahinojosa_) April 9, 2018
Mueller is clearly running a pure and simple witch hunt coup to remove Trump from office. What Mueller has done so far would cause most Presidents to throw in the towel and resign. Not Trump. Trump is a counter-puncher
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) April 9, 2018
At the end of the day, Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti has the best tweet:
I use the attorney-client privilege. I know the attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client privilege is a friend of mine. And the attorney-client privilege is not dead. What is dead is using the privilege to hide illegal acts. And that has been dead for a long time. #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 10, 2018