Donald Trump’s personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen came across as honest and likable, if flawed in his pubic House hearing testimony. He had good reason to tell the truth. His agreement with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said one lie, and it is go to jail. Still, the FBI had another take on the man. It appears that the agency may not have had Trump in its sights first.
Almost a year before FBI agents raided Cohen’s home, office, hotel, and bank deposit box the agency believed that the man was spying for a foreign government. The court has just released hundreds of pages of documents, including the numerous heavily redacted search warrants and related materials that led up to that raid.
The agents had been interested in Cohen’s business interests far earlier than indicated, since July 2017. That was what led to the Manhattan raids, not Trump’s activities. The FBI obtained Cohen’s Gmail accounts, and information within them gave the FBI the probable cause that justified the raid.
Before a raid can occur, the FBI must give the judge enough proof of specific crimes to convince him or her to sign the warrant.The FBI covered itself by submitting eight different application, affidavits, and search warrants amounting to reams of related pages. The agency must also list the suspected crimes, and they did, according the Courthouse News Service:
‘…the FBI had probable cause to justify the raid on the grounds of suspected bank fraud, money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.’
The FBI walked away with over four million electronic and paper files in their raid on Cohen, the Courthouse News Service reported:
‘The FBI’s raid on Cohen’s home, hotel and office yielded more than 4 million electronic and paper files in the searches, more than a dozen mobile devices and iPads, 20 external hard drives, flash drives, and laptops.’
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis released a statement the night prior to the search warrants being served on his client. He wrote:
‘Only furthers his interest in continuing to cooperate and providing information and the truth about Donald Trump and the Trump Organization to law enforcement and Congress.’
The released documents revealed that the FBI was especially interested in Cohen’s links to the Ukrianian-born Russian oligarch linked to President Vladimir Putin, Viktor Vekselberg.
Cohen was not the only link to Ukrainian oligarchs. Davis was the co-counsel to this one, Dmytro Firtash. It appears that Trump’s television attorney Rudy Giuliani had also been recently tied to the Russian mobster, Semion Mogilevich. The stew just keeps getting thicker and thicker, spicier and spicier.
Davis claimed that Firtash was an “innocent man.” However, the Obama administration indicted him for playing a part in “an international titanium scheme,” the Courthouse News reported.
Cohen had set up a shell company named Essential Consultants LLC. He had also set up a bank account with a First Republic bank in conjunction with the shell company just one month prior to the 2016 presidential election. Earlier, Cohen said the company was involved in real estate. He lied.
A FBI agent wrote this about Cohen:
‘Specifically, the account was not intended to receive – and does not appear to have received – money in connection to real estate consulting work; in addition, the account has received substantial payments from foreign sources.’
The New York Times and other media encouraged U.S. District Judge William Pauley III to release these documents with an open-records request in October. This was months prior to the judge sentencing the president’s private attorney to three years in prison for a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct. Then last month, Pauley wrote:
‘These applications implicate the familiar tension between public access to judicial records and the integrity of law enforcement investigations —interests arguably magnified by the intense scrutiny of Cohen’s criminal case by the media, the general public, and even the president of the United States.’
Times attorney David McCraw wrote:
‘Simply put, the public interest in knowing the underlying bases for the investigation could not be higher.’
Judge Pauley let the government to release redacted documents, because there are ongoing investigations. Cohen has said that his was implicated in campaign finance crimes, as was Trump.