Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a friend of Trump, called the Cohen raids “a little heavy-handed.”
“Is this surprising? Yes,” said Giuliani, also a former U.S. attorney. “Is it extraordinary? No. This is the way prosecutors get information — sometimes to convict and prosecute, sometimes to exculpate.”
Criticizing Mueller for veering into “highly personal issues,” such as the alleged Daniels encounter, Giuliani added, “The only thing that’s happening, perhaps, is that Mueller is trying to compel the president to testify.”
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One last week that he did not know Cohen had arranged the $130,000 payment for Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, just days before the 2016 election to prevent her from publicly speaking about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.
The president said he did not know where Cohen got the money and declined to answer whether he had set up a fund for Cohen to use. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump said. “Michael’s my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael.” [Continue reading…]
A search warrant for a lawyer’s office implicates the attorney-client privilege and core constitutional rights, so the Department of Justice requires unusual levels of approval to seek one. Prosecutors must seek the approval of the United States attorney of the district — in this case the office of Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney appointed by President Trump.
Prosecutors must also consult with the criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington. Finally, prosecutors must convince a United States magistrate judge that there’s probable cause to support the search. Faced with a warrant application destined for immediate worldwide publicity, the judge surely took unusual pains to examine it. This search was not the result of Mr. Mueller or his staff “going rogue.”
Second, the search demonstrates that federal prosecutors and supervisors in the Justice Department concluded that Mr. Cohen could not be trusted to preserve and turn over documents voluntarily. The same regulations that require prosecutors to seek high-level approval for a warrant to search a law office also instruct them to use the least intrusive means to obtain evidence from a lawyer, and to consider requesting voluntary cooperation or serving a subpoena. Mr. Cohen’s lawyer has loudly protested that he had been cooperating. This search warrant means that prosecutors — including the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the criminal division at the Justice Department — believed that Mr. Cohen could not be trusted to respond fully to a subpoena or might destroy documents.
Third, the search suggests that prosecutors most likely believe that Mr. Cohen’s clients used his legal services for the purpose of engaging in crime or fraud. Attorney-client communications are privileged, which is why it’s so unusual and difficult for prosecutors to get approval to search a law office. Justice Department regulations require federal prosecutors to set up a system to have a separate group — a so-called dirty team — review the files and separate out attorney-client communications so that the investigators and prosecutors won’t see anything protected by the privilege.
But if a client is using a lawyer’s services for the purpose of engaging in crime or fraud, there is no privilege. The very aggressive search of Mr. Cohen’s office for attorney-client files suggests that the prosecutors believe they can convince a judge that communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen fall under the crime-fraud exception. [Continue reading…]
A former dabbler, he said, in amateur mixed martial arts with Ultimate Fighting Championship paraphernalia in his office, Mr. Cohen raised hackles during the campaign when he told the Daily Beast a man couldn’t rape his own wife. He was responding to an old allegation by Mr. Trump’s first wife, which Mr. Trump denied.
Mr. Cohen said he achieved his goal of diverting attention from Mr. Trump. “My sole mission is to protect him so I’m not concerned if the media comes after me,” he said in the January 2017 Journal interview.
Before his Trump days, Mr. Cohen, besides practicing law, had extensive investments in the taxi business. A longtime partner was Simon Garber, a Ukrainian-born taxi baron who Mr. Cohen said had been a legal client. The two men remained business partners until 2012, when a falling out resulted in litigation, court records show.
Mr. Cohen remains listed on New York City taxi and state corporation records as owning some taxi medallions through companies with colorful names such as Sir Michael Hacking Corp. and Mad Dog Cab Corp.
In the early 2000s, Mr. Cohen started a Florida gambling-cruise business with two New York-area immigrants, public records show. The business took customers outside U.S. waters to legally gamble. Mr. Cohen described himself as chief executive of MLA Cruises Inc. in a biography for an unsuccessful 2003 run for New York City Council. The venture later ended.
While working for Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen has continued his personal investments, including the purchase with a partner of a Manhattan residential building for $58 million in 2015, records show.
Mr. Cohen credits himself as the originator of Mr. Trump’s run for president. [Continue reading…]
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