Monday, April 16, 2018
WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Sunday that all lawyers are now "deflated and concerned" by the FBI raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen, who is under criminal investigation for personal business dealings.
"Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past," he tweeted. "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. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!"
The raid carried out last Monday at Cohen's apartment, hotel room, office and safety deposit box sought bank records, records on Cohen's dealing in the taxi industry and Cohen's communications with the Trump campaign, people familiar with the investigation into Cohen told The Associated Press. The raid also sought information on payments Cohen made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and to adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, who is better known by her stage name, Stormy Daniels.
Both McDougal and Daniels say they had affairs with a married Trump, which the president has denied.
Prosecutors contend that Cohen was "performing little to no legal work" for Trump. They acknowledged that the investigation was referred by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but was being conducted by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed off on the FBI raid. Rosenstein is overseeing the federal probe into Trump and appointed Mueller as special counsel after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigation involving Trump's presidential campaign. Sessions had endorsed Trump for president in February 2016 and had campaigned for him.
In a court filing Friday, federal prosecutors said the criminal investigation had been going on for months, and agents had already searched multiple email accounts maintained by Cohen under an earlier search warrant. Cohen didn't attend Friday's hearing.
Trump has called the FBI raid an "attack on the country."
Cohen was ordered to appear in federal court today to help answer questions about his law practice. He has denied wrongdoing.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred when asked Sunday on ABC's This Week if Trump was worried that Cohen might agree to work with prosecutors, if charged, to reduce his own punishment.
"Look, the president is very confident in the fact that he has done nothing wrong and he can't speak on behalf of anyone else, but he's very confident in what he has and hasn't done," Sanders said. "And he's going to continue focusing and fighting for the American people."
Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Sunday that his client will attend today's hearing. In a tweet, he also responded to Trump's comment about how "all lawyers" are feeling after the Cohen raid.
"To be clear -- I am not 'deflated and concerned.' I am 'elated and hopeful,'" Avenatti wrote. "The events of the last week reinstill the belief that nobody is above the law, and the attorney-client privilege cannot be used by those in power to hide criminal conduct."
A CRY FROM JUSTICE
More than 200 former Justice Department employees are urging Congress to "swiftly and forcefully respond" should Trump respond to Mueller's investigation by firing him or Rosenstein.
"It is up to the rest of us, and especially our elected representatives, to come to their defense and oppose any attempt by the President or others to improperly interfere in the Department's work," according to a statement signed by 245 former officials who worked under current and previous administrations, some as far back as that of President Richard M. Nixon.
The former officials, many of whom said they served with Mueller and Rosenstein at the Justice Department, decried the recent attacks against the agency.
"We served [the Justice Department] out of a commitment to the founding American principles that our democratic republic depends upon the rule of law, that the law must be applied equally, and no one is above the law. ... Those of us who served with these men know them to be dedicated public servants committed to these principles," the statement said.
It further said: "We are therefore deeply disturbed by the attacks that have been levied against the good men and women of the Department. Not only is it an insult to their public service, but any attempt to corrupt or undermine the evenhanded application of the rule of law threatens the foundation of our Republic."
Mueller's probe is also looking into any possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian meddling, along with the possibility of obstruction of justice and the role foreign money may have played to influence the election or the administration's policy.
The former Justice officials' statement comes amid reports that Trump allies have been urging the president to fire Rosenstein. Some of the president's supporters say a new deputy attorney general would be more likely to fire Mueller and end the probe.
Confidants of Rosenstein told NBC News on Friday that he seemed to have accepted the possibility that he may soon lose his job.
Trump has accused the Justice Department and the FBI of politicizing the investigative process "in favor of Democrats and against Republicans." He also mocked both agencies in a recent tweet, saying they were not cooperating with Congress and calling that an "embarrassment to our country."
Several former advisers and members of the Trump campaign, as well as 13 Russian nationals, have been indicted as part of the probe. But Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a "witch hunt" and slammed Mueller for hiring "13 hardened Democrats" to join his team -- even though Mueller is a Republican appointed by Rosenstein, another Republican.
Many of the signatories served under multiple presidents, both Republican and Democrat. Among them is Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor who served under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
"I reported directly under Robert Mueller for 4 years," de la Vega said Friday in a tweet about the former FBI director. "There is no finer public servant anywhere."
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Information for this article was contributed by Kristine Phillips of The Washington Post; and by staff members of The Associated Press.
A Section on 04/16/2018
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