As I’m sure you know, gentle readers, Federal prosecutors staged a raid on the home, offices and hotel room of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney. It was apparently the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York that did the paperwork, and of course the FBI executed the warrants. By all news accounts, they seized an enormous amount of material protected by attorney/client privilege, which may reasonably be presumed to be their purpose.
We know that Cohen, and Mr. Trump, have voluntarily provided “more than a million” pages of documents to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, and by all accounts, have continually cooperated with Mueller, doing nothing to conceal or slow roll the transfer of information, unlike the FBI and DOJ to Congress. We also know that such raids are unusual, at best, as Alan Dershowitz explained on Fox News:
Dershowitz said it is a ‘dangerous day today for lawyer-client relations.’
He said that federal agents confiscated many items from the office, and predicted that they included confidential documents and files pertaining to attorney-client privilege discussions with Trump.
Dershowitz said that Trump’s team, as well as Cohen, have thus far cooperated with the Robert Mueller-led probe into alleged Russian collusion.
‘If this were Hillary Clinton [having her lawyer’s office raided], the ACLU would be on every TV station in America jumping up and down,’ he said. ‘The deafening silence of the ACLU and civil libertarians about the intrusion into the lawyer-client confidentiality is really appalling.
We also know this raid was inspired by Mueller, apparently relating to the Stormy Daniels matter. Daniels, for those not familiar with this issue, is an exotic dancer/porn star who claims to have had a single sexual encounter with Mr. Trump some 12 years ago, long before he became involved in politics. Cohen apparently paid Daniels $130,000 dollars not long before the 2016 campaign to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Daniels is currently trying to weasel out of that agreement. No doubt, there are many media outlets promising her a great deal more money for anything they can use against Mr. Trump, though not yet enough for her to violate the agreement. Mr. Trump, as one might imagine, is not impressed:
It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt,’ said Trump, who claimed that he had ‘given over a million pages in documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward … and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. Actually it’s much more than that. You could say right after I won the [2016 Republican] nomination it started.’
Trump also accused Mueller’s investigators of being ‘the most biased group of people [with] the biggest conflicts of interest’ and said Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘made a terrible mistake for the country’ when he recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation last year.
Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, said Monday’s raid was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and was based at least partly on a referral from Mueller.
‘The decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary,’ Ryan said in a statement. ‘It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients.’ [skip]
In February, Fox News reported that most of the 17 confirmed attorneys on Mueller’s team were registered Democrats or made Democratic political donations.
It’s also known Mueller’s chief deputy has an apparently well deserved reputation for making up the law and for abusive, unethical tactics in prosecuting cases.
Cohen has more recently attracted attention for his acknowledgment that he paid Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket just days before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen has said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Daniels and he was not reimbursed for the payment. [skip]
Trump answered questions about Daniels for the first time last week, saying he had no knowledge of the payment made by Cohen and he didn’t know where Cohen had gotten the money. The White House has consistently said Trump denies the affair.
It is too early to make any definitive statements on this situation, but for what they are worth, a few observations:
Normally, attorney/client communications of all kinds are strictly protected. The ability of a lawyer to effectively represent his clients, which is the basis of the 6thAmendment, requires full and honest communication. If there is substantial evidence of criminal activity, that wall may be breached, but this case, thus far, has the same smell as the entire Mueller investigation: a politically motivated fishing expedition.
Normally prosecutors stick to the letter of the law. They don’t make up crimes.
Normally, judges do not authorize search warrants without a clear and convincing showing of probable cause that specific laws have been broken and a specific person has broken them. Warrants must be limited in scope to particular places and particular evidence. Authorities can’t just go to someone’s home, offices and hotel room—Cohen’s home was being renovated and he was temporarily living out of a hotel—and remove everything, including the living room carpeting.
Normally, the transaction between Daniels and Cohen is not remotely a crime, but a civil matter.
Normally, as Dershowitz noted, the ACLU and similar folks would be hopping mad over this situation, and rightfully so.
Normally, a special prosecutor would be appointed only if there were a specific, easily identifiable crime to prosecute, and his mandate would be narrow indeed, of necessity and practice.
Normally, special prosecutors are appointed only when there is such a conflict of interest it would not be possible for one of the many career prosecutors of the DOJ to handle the case.
Normally when the FBI and Department of Justice serve a search warrant, one can reasonably expect their actions to be professional, ethical and within the law.
Unfortunately for our republic, “normal” is out the window in this case, which has all the indicators of a “show me the man and I’ll show you the crime” communist witch hunt. It is possible prosecutors are acting entirely within the law. It’s possible their actions are not politically, progressively motivated. It’s possible this is not a soft coup in progress against the duly, properly elected President of the United States. It’s possible the FBI and US Attorneys involved are honest and just doing their jobs. We don’t have all the facts, and may never have them. Unfortunately, the credibility of the FBI and DOJ are in tatters, and it is by their own obvious malfeasance.
The seizure of what must be virtually all of Mr. Cohen’s records is not only dangerous for our republic, it will destroy Mr. Cohen’s ability to make a living. Who will hire a lawyer subject at any moment to federal fishing expeditions? Cohen’s clients must be panicking and abandoning him in droves. But if his clients haven’t done anything wrong, what do they have to worry about? I’m glad you trust the DOJ so much; good luck with that.
There are supposedly safeguards in place for such situations. A DOJ “taint team” of lawyers is supposed to review all documents, denying attorney/client privileged communications to the DOJ lawyers prosecuting the case. Who can trust the DOJ with such sensitive matters?
If this is an attempt by the Deep State—purposely embedded progressive operatives–to destroy Mr. Trump and to establish permanent progressive control of the government, who in the DOJ can be trusted? If no crime is necessary to investigate, no statute required to prosecute, how can anyone know what is illegal?
Prosecutors have enormous power. They can choose to interpret the law to mean whatever they want it to mean. In this case, the transaction between Daniels and Cohen was entirely a civil matter and not remotely illegal. Prosecutors are apparently trying to make it illegal by claiming it an illegal campaign donation. To make such a claim, they’d have to argue that the money was somehow directly related to Mr. Trump’s campaign, and used to help elect him. The obvious argument would be the payment to Daniels was inspired only by Trump’s campaign, and they’d have to argue he would never have done it absent that campaign.
Whether Mr. Trump knew about the matter or not is irrelevant—to them. The power to prosecute is the power to destroy. Keeping Mr. Trump embroiled in ankle biting legal matters limits his ability to dismantle the progressive state. And as with Michael Flynn, the government’s bottomless coffers can quickly financially destroy virtually anyone, forcing them to do the government’s bidding or face years in prison though they have done nothing wrong.
But the judge would not have authorized a search warrant without a good reason! We now know the government—FBI and DOJ–lies to judges for political purposes—that’s been obvious for decades. As regular readers also know, judges often authorize search warrants based on affidavits a first year law student would know contain not a shred of probable cause. Again, we don’t know what the affidavit(s) in this case said, but it’s fair to presume they may not have been legitimate.
The utter silence of the ACLU and similar civil liberties groups and activists may also reasonably lead one to believe this entire matter is politically motivated. Dershowitz is correct. Had such a raid been done on one of Hillary Clinton’s lawyers, the indignant screams of outrage of the left would still be resounding.
We know beyond any doubt that James Comey broke the law—leaking to the press–for the express purpose of getting a special prosecutor to go after Mr. Trump. We know Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein put Mueller in that job mere hours after Mueller was interviewed for the position of FBI Director by President Trump and turned down. We know DOJ rules require no special prosecutor be chartered without a clearly defined crime or crimes to prosecute, and that there was no such crime in Mueller’s mandate. There is nothing normal, and much unethical and illegal in all of this.
If, as it now seems, Mueller and the rest of the DOJ is determined to delve into Mr. Trump’s business dealings, there are truly no restraints. Who among us could avoid prison and ruin if pursued by a prosecutor with unlimited jurisdiction and unlimited funds determined to find or manufacture a crime with which to charge us? As regular readers know, I fully support and defend the rule of law, but as a police officer, I never spent a minute chasing people I merely thought deserving of prosecution. I needed evidence of a crime—usually a substantial crime—before I spent any time pursuing a case. Pawing through the lives of people without first having evidence of a crime is the stuff of tyranny.
We, gentle readers, would all like to be able to trust the Department of Justice and the FBI. We would like to be able to believe when they serve warrants in what might be a politically tainted investigation, they are on the side of the angels, or at least on the side of the non-partisan rule of law, but we can’t.
The horror of it all is this may be the new normal. As Kurt Schlichter so presciently wrote, Progressives aren’t going to like their new rules.
PRE POSTING UPDATE:One of the arguments given for the legitimacy of the raid was that the interim attorney for the Southern District of NY, who was appointed by President Trump, authorized the raid, thus suggesting there was no partisan bias involved. Legal Insurrection now reports otherwise:
ABC News has learned that Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is recused from the Michael Cohen investigation.
Two sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News Berman was not involved in the decision to raid Cohen’s office because of the recusal.
The recusal was approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The raid of Cohen’s handled by others in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and approved by a federal judge.
Berman is a Trump appointee with ties to Rudy Giuliani who donated money to the 2016 Trump campaign.
The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.
Let me see if I have this straight: It’s entirely proper for the office of the special prosecutor to be staffed almost entirely by blatant anti-Trump partisans who donated to Hillary Clinton—that’s not evidence of political bias–but it’s not kosher to have a US Attorney appointed by Mr. Trump, who donated to his campaign, to have any oversight of the fishing expedition? Does that mean only prosecutors philosophically opposed to Mr. Trump may have anything to do with his case? With the prosecution of any Republican for any reason?