A report in the New York Times just revealed that a high-level Trump appointee at the Justice Department authorized the extraordinary FBI raid into attorney Michael Cohen’s offices.
While President is doing his best to frame yesterday’s raids as part of some kind of liberal plot to frame him, the truth is they were approved by a man that he himself appointed.
The Times says that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave federal prosecutors permission in the Southern District of New York to pull off the three-part raid on Cohen’s home, offices and a hotel room he’s been inexplicably living out of in Manhattan.
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News about the raid on Cohen indicates that the FBI is looking for evidence of an unspecified bank fraud, as well as material about the fixer’s role in paying off porn star Stormy Daniels and the National Enquirer’s “catch and kill” agreement with former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. The Times reports:
Rod J. Rosenstein, the veteran Republican prosecutor handpicked by Mr. Trump to serve as deputy attorney general, personally signed off on Monday’s F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and longtime confidant, several government officials said.
Searching a lawyer’s files is among the most sensitive moves federal prosecutors can make as they pursue a criminal investigation. Mr. Rosenstein’s personal involvement in the decision signals that the evidence seen by law enforcement officials was significant enough to persuade the Justice Department’s second-in-command that such an aggressive move was necessary.
While Mr. Rosenstein must sign off on all moves that Mr. Mueller makes, that is not necessarily the case for searches — like this one — that are carried out by other federal law enforcement offices. Justice Department regulations require prosecutors to consult with senior criminal prosecutors in Washington — but not necessarily the deputy attorney general — before conducting a search of a lawyer’s files.
CNN reports that investigators also sought records from Michael Cohen’s business buying and selling New York City taxi medallions, under which he operated using the trade name Michael D. Hacking. Cohen’s former partner in the taxi business, Gene Friedman, was arrested last year for stealing $5 million in fees due to New York City’s MTA
Even the staunchly conservative Trump legal ally Alan Dershowitz is calling the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen a “tactic generally used against organized crime, against very serious, very serious criminals and lawyers who are operating outside of the protections of the law.”
While President Trump lashes out at Deputy AG Rosenstein and cries on Twitter about the death of attorney-client privilege, this isn’t even the first time that federal prosecutors have used the crime-fraud exemption to lift the veil of secrecy during Mueller’s investigation.
The dubious honor of being the first attorney forced to testify by subpoena about privileged conversations with a client in Mueller’s probe actually belongs to Akin Gump lawyer Melissa Laurenza last August, who used to represent Paul Manafort, and to his former legal spokesman Jason Maloni.
This year, Manafort’s current lawyers accidentally released confidential information onto the federal court’s docket which explained why Maloni – at least – was targeted.
Donald Trump reacted to news of yesterday’s raid on Michael Cohen with fiercely negative comments in public about Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who is recused from the Russia probe because of his role inside the 2016 campaign – and about Deputy AG Rosenstein.
Today, rumors are running wild in D.C. that the President will seek to dismiss Justice Department officials.
But it appears that the unusual raid on Trump’s attorney was approved by a series of his own appointees and they gave him the exceptional safeguard of going to the very top of the Department of Justice even though established policies clearly say that a lower level official would have sufficed.