President Donald Trump derided the FBI raid on his personal lawyer’s office on April 9, calling it a disgrace.
“It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” Trump said before a security briefing at the White House on April 9.
FBI agents raided the offices and home of Michael Cohen, according to law enforcement officials. Raids on personal attorneys require the highest level of vetting at the Justice Department, according to Frank Montoya, a former senior FBI official.
“No question, a search warrant for a lawyer is an extraordinary act,” he told Reuters. “Factor in that, in this instance, it was the president’s own attorney. Unprecedented.”
“Attorney–client privilege is dead,” Trump wrote on Twitter the next morning. “Total witch hunt!”
Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan, said on April 9 that prosecutors had seized communications between Cohen and his clients based in part on a referral by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The attorney–client privilege Trump referred to is intended to encourage open communication between lawyers and their clients, so that lawyers can provide sound legal advice.
Former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz criticized the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over its silence on the raid. He called April 9 a “very dangerous day for lawyer–client relations.”
Trump said that his lawyers have handed over more than 1 million pages of documents to Mueller’s team. Dershowitz believes Trump’s team is fully cooperating with Mueller.
“If this were Hillary Clinton [having her lawyer’s office raided], the ACLU would be on every TV station in America jumping up and down,” Dershowitz told Fox News. “The deafening silence of the ACLU and civil libertarians about the intrusion into the lawyer–client confidentiality is really appalling.”
Mueller is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and so far has not produced any indictments supporting the collusion claim. Trump denies all allegations.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed off on the raid, The New York Times reported, citing unnamed officials. Rosenstein also signed the controversial warrant application to surveil Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page during the 2016 campaign.
That application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) was based in part on the so-called Trump dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Former FBI Director James Comey has testified under oath that the contents of the dossier were both “salacious and unverified.” According to an investigation by the House intelligence committee, the FISA court was left in the dark about the fact that unverified opposition material was used in the FISA warrant application.
Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation made to the Trump foundation in 2015 by a Ukrainian businessman in exchange for a teleconference speech by Trump, The New York Times reported. Cohen made the arrangement.
The same Ukrainian businessman, Viktor Pinchuk, funneled $13 million to the Clinton Foundation starting in 2006 and had access to Clinton while she was the head of the State Department, The Daily Caller reported. In comparison, Trump accepted the donation when he was not yet chosen as the Republican candidate.
“The other side is where there are crimes, and those crimes are obvious,” Trump said, referring to Clinton. “Lies, under oath, all over the place. Emails that are knocked out, that are acid-washed and deleted. Nobody has ever seen—33,000 emails are deleted after getting a subpoena for Congress, and nobody bothers looking at that. And many, many other things.”
Reuters contributed to this report.