Trump now sees inquiry into Cohen as greater threat than Mueller

Hannah Rogers
April 14, 2018

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation for his "business dealings" and has been a target of law enforcement for months, the Justice Department said on Friday.

The Justice Department filing was in response to a request by Cohen for a temporary restraining order that would prevent law enforcement from reviewing certain material seized by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Monday.

Investigators have also looked for a possible broader pattern of fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes in Cohen's private dealings, including his work for Trump and real estate purchased by Russian buyers.

President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has until Monday morning to produce the names of his clients, with proof of their relationship, or face having the temporary restraining order his attorneys were in court seeking Friday tossed by U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of NY.

Cohen told ABC News the operation was "respectful" and "courteous", but the agents carted away documents and Cohen's electronic devices.

Prosecutors have been working with a grand jury to investigate Cohen for months, they write, and they have obtained secret warrants on his "multiple different email accounts".

Depending on what was discussed during the call, it could raise legal issues for Trump and Cohen.

The 51-year old lawyer, who mostly operates from behind the scenes couldn't escape the attention of the special counsel and Congressional investigators ever since the news of hush payment to the porn star surfaced. Mr Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Mr Cohen, declined to comment.

The disclosure comes a day after it was revealed that the authorities also sought documents from Mr. Cohen related to payments made to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump, Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, as well as information on the role of the publisher of The National Enquirer in silencing the women.

"Although Cohen is an attorney, he also has several other business interests and sources of income", prosecutors wrote.

"We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes", said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

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Each search warrant specifically describes how records seized that may fall into attorney-client privilege will be filtered out by a team that's walled off from the federal agents who have conducted the investigation, the prosecutors wrote.

Attorneys for Trump lawyer Michael Cohen want the court to order prosecutors to temporarily halt an examination of the material that was seized.

The report also delved into how Cohen, a New York City native, rose to prominence in the city and eventually became close to Trump and his family.

Avenatti told reporters after the Friday morning hearing that he had no doubt the materials seized include documents concerning the negotiations with Daniels, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed by her against Cohen and Trump in Los Angeles.

The filing said none of those emails was exchanged with Trump.

The Justice Department is asking for a so-called taint team to vet the material seized in the raids Monday, as is standard process.

Though Wood ultimately granted Cohen's team additional time, she referred to the prosecution's concerns as "well-taken".

On Monday, Cohen's attorney called the searches "completely inappropriate and unnecessary".

Avenatti spoke outside the court at Friday's hearing and then followed with a suggestive tweet that "the weather forecast for Monday looks very Stormy".

After, Davis Wright Tremaine partner Rachel Strom rose to point out, as the attorney present representing the interest of the assembled press, that case law would support an even smaller subset of Cohen's clients to be considered privileged.

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