Yesterday, the FBI shocked the nation by raiding the Trump Tower office of the president’s longtime lawyer and personal friend Michael Cohen.
Cohen was previously implicated in a possible campaign finance violation when it was revealed that he paid $130,000 in hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged extramarital affair between her and Trump. The agents also snatched up emails, tax documents, and business records. Additionally, Cohen is suspected of possible bank fraud.
The FBI seized numerous documents during the raid, including some related to the Stormy Daniels payoff. The search warrant was obtained after special counsel Robert Mueller sent a referral to federal prosecutors. The raid was most likely due to information uncovered by Mueller during the course of his investigation.
“The seized records include communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, which would likely require a special team of agents to review because conversations between lawyers and clients are protected from scrutiny in most instances,” writes Matt Apuzzo of The Times.
As Apuzzo pointed out, the FBI’s raid of Trump’s lawyer’s office almost certainly doesn’t constitute a violation of attorney-client privilege. The most likely next step seems to be a review of the seized materials by an independent third party. That party would be able to sort out anything that constitutes privileged communication and set it aside so that investigators will know which documents they can and can’t review.
Of course, the president is never one to let the facts get in the way of a good narrative. Trump took to Twitter this morning to make the ignorant declarative statement, “Attorney-client privilege is dead!”
It appears he’s worried that the FBI will find dirt on him or his crooked lawyer soon, and is hoping to shape the conversation in his favor ahead of time. Clearly, the rule of attorney-client privilege is not dead. It’s the law.
That said, such privilege doesn’t protect a lawyer and his client if the two of them committed, or planned to commit a crime together. Maybe that’s what has Trump so panicked.
Attorney–client privilege is dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, saw Trump’s ludicrous tweet and decided to take a swing at him. Obviously, Avenatti himself is intimately familiar with the ins and outs of attorney-client privilege. He pointed out that while the privilege itself is not dead, exploiting it to cover up crimes certainly is, and has been for quite some time. In other words, Trump should be very, very worried.
I use the attorney-client privilege. I know the attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client privilege is a friend of mine. And the attorney-client privilege is not dead. What is dead is using the privilege to hide illegal acts. And that has been dead for a long time. #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 10, 2018