The ascent of Donald Trump to power brought an array of strikingly corrupt people into the national spotlight, no matter how many times the president has promised to “drain the swamp.” One of those corrupt individuals, it turned out this week, is the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Earlier this week, in a move that prompted the intense anger of the commander-in-chief, the FBI raided Cohen in an effort carried out thanks to a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. To be clear, however, despite the president directing his anger at the special counsel, the raid was not carried out as a direct part of the Russia probe that Mueller is overseeing.
Now, in response to a challenge from Cohen’s team, the Department of Justice has confirmed that he is under criminal investigation, although the specific crimes that the president’s lawyer is accused of are redacted in the publicly available copy of the relevant filing.
The Department of Justice made that revelation in a Friday filing, in response to Cohen moving to restrain the evidence collected in Monday’s raids, which covered his residence, hotel room, office, safety deposit boxes and electronic devices.
Although the DOJ did not reveal what specific crimes they have placed Cohen under investigation for, there have been previous reports painting a broad picture of the illegal activities allegedly undertaken by the man chosen by the president to represent him.
According to past reports, during their Monday raids of Cohen’s belongings, agents were looking for everything from records related to the hush money Cohen dished out to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 covering an alleged affair with the president to any possible efforts on Cohen’s part to suppress negative media stories about his most prominent client in the wake of the release of the Access Hollywood tape.
In that tape, which came out late into the 2016 U.S. presidential election season, Trump can be heard bragging about his supposed freedom to commit sexual assault.
Seizing communications between a lawyer and the client — in this case meaning between Michael Cohen and the president — is questionable but not unchartable legal territory. If crimes are suspected to have been committed, then the principle of attorney-client privilege — which the president bemoaned after the Cohen raids was “dead” — no longer applies.
Cohen’s lawyer, Todd Harrison, working alongside new Trump attorney Joanna Hendon, has joined the president in expressing concern about the application of attorney-client privilege in the case of the criminal investigation into Cohen, calling for “the lawyers themselves to review the material or a “special master” to decide what is relevant to the case,” in the description of CNN.
In the face of these unsurprisingly raised concerns from Cohen’s team, the DOJ has stated that attorney-client privilege doesn’t even seem to be a majorly relevant concern here because, for one, a review of Cohen email accounts found zero email conversations with the president.
On top of that, the DOJ concluded that Cohen is performing “little to no” actual legal work at present, so crying attorney-client privilege certainly does not seem as though it’s going to get the president’s personal lawyer out of accountability for any possible crimes here.
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