The FBI raid on the home and office of Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen reportedly took place after a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The search warrant apparently was obtained by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.
Not much more than that is known as of this writing. There’s a lot of speculation and anonymously sourced reporting that it had to do with bank fraud, or the payment to Stormy Daniels, or something else. The seizure of records should have followed applicable procedures for searching an attorney’s office records to protect legitimate attorney-client privilege.
Regardless, seizing the records of the personal attorney to the president is extraordinary, and reflects a number of points I’ve been arguing since the day Robert Mueller was appointed.
The process of investigation is the reverse of what it should be. Mueller has identified the targets, being Trump and those around him, and then set out to find the crimes. Being near Trump means you will be subject to scrutiny to find a crime. In some cases that scrutiny may be minimal, in other cases, such as Paul Manafort, it could mean substantial criminal charges that likely never would have been brought but for Manafort being connected to Trump’s campaign for a relatively short time period.
That’s the context to understand what likely happened with Cohen. Assuming the reports are accurate that this was a referral from Mueller and did not originate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, it means that Mueller subjected Cohen to scrutiny and found something. What that something is we don’t yet know. If it had to do with alleged Russian collusion, or even Russia, it’s likely Mueller would have kept the matter in his investigation, just as he did with Manafort’s Ukrainian connections.
That doesn’t mean Mueller wouldn’t find it helpful for his own investigation. It would be completely consistent (1) for Mueller to understand that whatever Cohen did or had, it was too far removed from Mueller’s appointment to justify Mueller’s team executing the warrant, and (2) Mueller finding it useful to have others in DOJ/FBI put the squeeze on Cohen to flip him against Trump.
Mueller is legally twisting Manafort’s arm so hard to flip him against Trump it may fall off, but will have to outsource the torment of Cohen to others. As so much that has preceded it in the Russia collusion inquisition, this has the appearances of friends of James Comey and Andrew McCabe taking out whatever their agenda is on friends of Trump.
This also could represent a line of attack against Trump by Mueller that Mueller didn’t feel he could take himself. Subjecting business dealings of Trump to criminal investigation as part of the Russia investigation would be a stretch. Again, it’s just as convenient for Mueller to have someone else do that, and in the case of Trump’s past business dealings, even more convenient for Mueller.
Unlike Obama, who took control of the DOJ/FBI apparatus, Trump is fighting for his presidency against the bureaucracy, as John Hinderaker observed:
They have been requesting information and getting it. There is no reason or excuse for this raid other than to make it look dramatic and sensational. These losers are getting pitifully desperate.