WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Sunday that all lawyers are now “deflated and concerned” by the FBI raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen, who is under criminal investigation for personal business dealings.
“Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past,” he tweeted. “I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!”
The raid carried out last Monday at Cohen’s apartment, hotel room, office and safety deposit box sought bank records, records on Cohen’s dealing in the taxi industry, Cohen’s communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments he made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and to porn actress Stormy Daniels, people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.
One of Trump’s lawyers, Joanna Hendon, filed papers late Sunday asking a federal judge to block prosecutors from studying material seized in the raid until Cohen and the president have both had a chance to review those materials and argue which are subject to attorney-client privilege.
“Fairness and justice – as well as the appearance of fairness and justice – require that, before they are turned over to the Investigative Team, the seized materials relating to the President must be reviewed by the only person who is truly motivated to ensure that the privilege is properly invoked and applied: the privilege-holder himself, the President,” Hendon wrote.
On Friday, lawyers for Cohen appeared in federal court in New York asking that they, not the Department of Justice, be given a first crack at reviewing the seized evidence to see if it was relevant to the investigation or could be forwarded to criminal investigators without jeopardizing attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutors want a different system, in which a special team of Justice Department lawyers not directly involved in the probe would review the material and determine what was off-limits to investigators because of attorney-client privilege.
Hendon proposed yet another level of protections, in which Cohen’s lawyers, after finishing their initial review, then be required to “identify to the president all seized materials that relate to him in any way and provide a copy of those materials to him and his counsel.”
Trump, or his lawyers, would then get to say what he believed to be off-limits to investigators.
Federal prosecutors revealed Friday said the criminal investigation had been going on for months. They declined to say publicly what laws they believed Cohen had broken, but said the probe had to do with her personal business dealings.
Prosecutors contend that Cohen was “performing little to no legal work” for Trump. They acknowledged that the investigation was referred by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but was being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred when asked Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” if Trump was worried that Cohen might agree to work with prosecutors, if charged, to reduce his own punishment.
“Look, the president is very confident in the fact that he has done nothing wrong and he can’t speak on behalf of anyone else, but he’s very confident in what he has and hasn’t done,” Sanders said. “And he’s going to continue focusing and fighting for the American people.”
Cohen, who didn’t attend Friday’s hearing, was ordered to appear in federal court Monday to help answer questions about his law practice. He has denied wrongdoing.
Both McDougal and Daniels say they had affairs with a married Trump, which the president has denied.
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Sunday that his client will attend Monday’s hearing. In a tweet, he also responded to Trump’s comment about how “all lawyers” are feeling after the Cohen raid.
“To be clear – I am not “deflated and concerned.” I am “elated and hopeful,” Avenatti wrote. “The events of the last week reinstill the belief that NOBODY is above the law and the attorney-client privilege cannot be used by those in power to hide criminal conduct.”
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