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That the FBI Got a Search Warrant for Cohen's Office Is Telling

FBI looking into alleged fraud, sources say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2018 5:02 AM CDT
Updated Apr 10, 2018 6:51 AM CDT
Report: Cohen Suspected of Campaign Finance Fraud
In this Sept. 19, 2017, photo, Michael Cohen appears in front of members of the media after a closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(Newser) – The stunning FBI raid on the offices of President Trump's personal lawyer Monday happened because Michael Cohen is suspected of crimes including bank fraud and campaign finance fraud, insiders say. Sources tell the Washington Post that agents seized documents including Cohen's tax returns in raids on his offices, home, and hotel room. The sources say the records seized include those relating to Cohen's controversial pre-election payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump. Agents also seized records of Cohen's communication with his clients, including Trump, the sources say. A roundup of coverage:

  • Bad news for Trump. This is very bad news for Trump, who may have committed a felony violation of campaign finance laws if he directed Cohen's payment to Daniels, Politico notes. But the fact that the investigation was referred to the US attorney's office by Robert Mueller suggests Cohen may also be involved in "Russia-related malfeasance" connected to the president: "For Trump, then, the trouble is that even if he is able to weather this particular storm, the roof shielding him may be blown away in the process."

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  • Beyond Stormy. Cohen could be in very serious trouble if it emerges that he lied when he said he used his home equity credit line to borrow the $130,000 to pay Daniels, though sources tell the New York Times that investigators, who seized Cohen's business records, are also looking at several other issues. If they do uncover anything relevant to the Russia probe, they will be allowed to turn it over to Mueller's team.
  • High bar for a warrant. Legal experts tell the Post that the FBI would have had to clear a higher bar than usual to obtain warrants for the Cohen searches, meaning there's likely strong evidence he was involved in criminal conduct. "A search warrant for a law office is extremely rare,” says Stephen Gillers at the New York University School of Law. "Lawyers are given the courtesy of producing documents in response to a subpoena or a request unless the government believes a lawyer will destroy or conceal the objects of the search."
  • Delay from the Daniels team. Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Daniels, says that after the FBI raids, he may delay the release of a composite sketch of the suspect Daniels says threatened her in 2011, when she first threatened to go public about the alleged Trump affair, the AP reports.
  • The outlook for Cohen. CNN analyst Paul Callan looks at various scenarios and decides most of them look bad for Cohen, though there is, of course, the possibility that both he and Trump will be exonerated. He notes that Cohen will appear unethical even if he is telling the truth about Trump not knowing about the Daniels payment, since attorneys aren't supposed to act without consulting their client. "If Trump was not advised by Cohen that he had negotiated a $130,000 non-disclosure agreement with a porn actress prohibiting her from revealing anything suggesting an intimate relationship with Trump one month before the presidential election, he certainly should have been," Callan writes.
(Trump has called the raids "disgraceful" and an "attack on our country.")

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