The personal lawyer of President Donald Trump will be in a federal court in New York on Monday, as his lawyers – with the backing of the President – try to stop federal prosecutors from going through materials seized in a surprise raid last week that involved documents and electronic devices from the long time legal and personal ally of Mr. Trump.
“Attorney client privilege is now a thing of the past,” the President declared in a Sunday morning tweet.
“I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken,” the President added.
In a submission to a federal judge in New York on Sunday night, the President’s legal team said that investigators shouldn’t have access to anything that was taken in last week’s raid.
“However, to the extent the government seized privileged information, it is not entitled to have that information, much less review it,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote.
As for Cohen, a review of documents submitted by federal prosecutors in New York shows that Cohen has been under investigation for some time, with the feds previously getting warrants for his emails, and possibly other communications.
Here’s more details on why federal authorities acted last week on Cohen.
1. First, read the document where the feds defend the raid. This submission to federal Judge Kimba Wood is a perfect place to start to learn more about why the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York was looking at Cohen. It’s only 23 pages, and gives you some insight on what’s involved. At this point, the feds are arguing against a move by lawyers for Cohen for a temporary restraining order, which would block federal prosecutors from using any of the information seized in the April 9 raid. The feds searched Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office, seizing documents, electronic devices and more. They even looked inside his safety deposit box. The feds clearly say that Cohen is ‘under investigation’ – for what? Those specifics are redacted from this document.
2. The question of attorney-client privilege. As the President has stated, he believes – in this raid on Cohen – the feds have wrongly pierced the attorney-client privilege, which in most cases does not allow law enforcement to force a lawyer to give up information which might be used against his or her client. There is an exception – when the lawyer is thought to have committed crimes. The feds say Cohen “is being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings.” What’s not said is whether those dealings involve President Trump.
3. Cohen has been under scrutiny for some time. The document makes it clear that Cohen didn’t suddenly just come under the microscope, maybe because of the Stormy Daniels matter. “The searches are the result of a months-long investigation into Cohen, and seek evidence of crimes, many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen’s own business dealings,” the feds told the court. The document acknowledges that the feds “already obtained search warrants – covert until this point – on multiple different email accounts maintained by Cohen.” For reasons which were blacked out in the document, the feds decided to move in last week, evidently worried that Cohen might be about to get rid of certain materials.
4. President Trump’s lawyers move to get involved in Cohen’s case. Already expressing his anger in public about the raid, now the President is using legal efforts to support the effort of his lawyer to suppress the material seized in last week’s raid. On Friday, federal judge Kimba Wood approved the request of the President to “intervene” in the case, and weigh in on the merits of the legal dispute, and on Sunday night, Mr. Trump’s lawyers delivered, arguing the feds were wrong on all counts. The President’s legal team argues a special group of federal investigators should not review the Cohen documents, saying there is a “grave risk” to the attorney-client privilege between Cohen and Mr. Trump. Why would the President want to get involved in this case? Critics of Mr. Trump would say it’s because there might be evidence about the President that he doesn’t want out in public.
5. The mystery of what exactly the feds now have. While the feds argue that the items seized in last week’s raid are integral to their investigation, not surprisingly, Cohen’s legal team asserts that none of it should be in the hands of federal prosecutors. While we know documents and more were seized, what kind of information is in there which would impact directly upon the White House, and supposedly involve the attorney-client privilege between Cohen and the President. “This matter is particularly sensitive and unique because, as the government is well aware, the President of the United States is one of Mr. Cohen’s clients,” his lawyers told the court. But after that, the number of sentences blacked out in this document make one wonder what exactly this dispute is all about.
6. Tabloids and press on alert for Stormy & Cohen. As if the New York Post and the New York Daily News didn’t need any more grist for the mill, there were reports on Sunday that the Monday court proceedings in New York involving Cohen would see Stormy Daniels in attendance – that straight from her lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
While that court hearing is going on Monday afternoon, the President will be in Miami, Florida, doing an event on his tax cut plan, and then going to his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he will receive the Japanese Prime Minister for a two-day meeting.