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- President Donald Trump is apparently more unnerved by the rapidly developing criminal case surrounding his personal lawyer Michael Cohen than he is about Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.
- A report from The New York Times cites people familiar with Trump’s thinking who said the president sees Cohen’s criminal case as a bigger threat, due in part to Cohen having been his longtime attorney, fixer, and confidant.
- Federal investigators confirmed on Friday that Cohen is indeed under criminal investigation. It’s the latest development to come after an FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office this week.
- Agents collected electronic devices and documents in the raid. It’s part of a broad investigation into Cohen’s business dealings, and may also include his role in nondisclosure agreements with women who claimed to have affairs with Trump, and Cohen’s unofficial role in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The wide-ranging criminal investigation into Michael Cohen is said to have left President Donald Trump more rattled than the Russia investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Federal investigators in New York are looking into years’ worth of Cohen’s business dealings, as well as lawyering he did for Trump as his longtime personal attorney, fixer, and confidant.
The FBI collected a trove of Cohen’s devices and documents in the Monday raid, which is primarily focused on Cohen’s business and personal affairs that are unrelated to his work as an attorney. But because Cohen is so closely connected to Trump, the development apparently has the president bracing for the worst, The New York Times reported on Friday.
The Monday raid on Cohen’s home and office took Trump by surprise and added to the stress of the Mueller investigation, which is looking into whether Trump committed obstruction of justice and whether his campaign cooperated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 US election.
Trump’s lawyers on Friday sought to intervene in Cohen’s criminal proceedings, citing worries about federal agents rifling through attorney-client information that may be related to Trump. A judge granted that request late Friday. The president’s lawyers have said they want to review the documents that were confiscated.
One of Trump’s attorneys, Joanna Hendon, argued in court on Friday for access to the materials, insisting that the president’s legal team needs assurance that the matter involving Cohen is handled “scrupulously.”
Investigators can examine attorney-client work that falls within the purview of the Cohen criminal probe, but a separate Justice Department review is typically required in order to protect attorney-client privilege. Information deemed to be germane to the criminal investigation would not be protected by attorney-client privilege.
A lawyer can be called to testify against their client if their work was used in an effort to commit a crime or an act of fraud. Cohen reportedly said he “would rather jump out of a building” than testify against Trump.
Despite the Cohen matter being unrelated to Mueller’s Russia investigation and the obstruction probe into Trump, the FBI raid on Monday infuriated the president and reportedly prompted him and his lawyers to scrap plans for a sit-down interview with Mueller.