Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.
FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to a fourth person familiar with the investigation.
Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, that person said.
In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.
The raids — part of an investigation referred by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to federal prosecutors in New York — point to escalating legal jeopardy for a longtime Trump confidant who is deeply intertwined in the president’s business and personal matters.
Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, called the tactics “inappropriate and unnecessary,” saying Cohen has “cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
Trump says FBI raid of his lawyer’s office is a ‘disgraceful situation’
President Trump on April 9 said the raid by FBI agents of the office of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, is a “disgraceful situation.” (Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Among the records seized by investigators were “protected attorney client communications,” Ryan said.
The aggressive tactics by prosecutors drew the president’s ire. As Trump sat down for dinner Monday with military leaders at the White House, he repeatedly called the raid “a disgrace,” railing that he and his administration are the subject of unfair, baseless and misguided investigations.
“I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now or longer,” he said. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense; it’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
Revisiting his grievances about Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump complained about what he suggested was a concerted and sometimes partisan effort to target his leadership. He noted that he has been urged to fire the special counsel, calling Mueller’s investigators “the most biased group of people.”
Dawn Dearden, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, declined to comment. Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, declined to comment.
One person familiar with the probe said investigators have been gathering material on Cohen for weeks, including his bank records.
Two of the potential crimes being investigated — bank fraud and wire fraud — suggest prosecutors have some reason to think Cohen may have misled bankers about why he was using particular funds or may have improperly used banks in the transfer of funds.
Cohen has acknowledged facilitating a $130,000 payment in October 2016 to Daniels, who claims she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006.
Trump made his first comments about the payment last week, saying he did not know about the transaction.
Cohen has said he used a home-equity line of credit to finance the payment to Daniels and said that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign reimbursed him for the payment.
Banks don’t usually require much explanation from customers about how they use such credit lines. However, Cohen may have been asked to provide explanation for the large-dollar transfers he made when he moved the money to a shell company and then to a lawyer for Daniels.
The search requests for records related to the payment to Daniels cited investigators’ interest in possible violations of election law, according to one person familiar with the investigators’ work.
[Special counsel has examined episodes involving Cohen]
The seizure of Cohen’s records was first reported by the New York Times.
The Cohen raids required high-level authorization within the Justice Department. Under regulations governing the special counsel’s work, Mueller is required to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein if his team finds information worth investigating that does not fall under his mandate to examine Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Rosenstein, as the acting attorney general supervising Mueller’s work, has the responsibility of deciding whether to expand Mueller’s mandate to include the new topic or to refer it to a U.S. attorney’s office.