Last week, President Trump addressed the Stormy Daniels scandal for the first time — by saying he had no knowledge of the $130,000 hush payment over the alleged affair — which his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, bizarrely admitted to have personally paid from his home equity line. On Monday, the matter escalated rapidly, for the New York Times reports that the FBI, partially on “referral” by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, raided Cohen’s offices and seized documents on Daniels’ payment and a number of other subjects.
Not only was Cohen’s office raided, but Vanity Fair reveals that his NYC Lowes Regency hotel room was swept by agents as well. The twist here, however, is that the Times states that the search isn’t directly related to Mueller’s probe into possible Trump collusion with Russia. Instead, it seems that Mueller uncovered some other potentially incriminating information and handed it over to the FBI. Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, has issued a statement to both confirm and condemn the raid:
“It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
The Times stresses that the Daniels documents were indeed on the FBI’s list of documents to be seized, which points toward what was recently highlighted by 60 Minutes on the same episode that featured Daniels’ interview with Anderson Cooper. In addition to Daniels stating that she felt threatened into signing the hush agreement, there’s the matter of the payment being made by Cohen mere days before the November 2016 election. This would have possibly violated laws regarding individual campaign contribution levels.
Neither the FBI nor Robert Mueller’s office has provided comment to the press on this story as of yet. Speculation will, of course, run rampant on what other subjects were included in the seized documents. During the Trump transition, Cohen reportedly hand-delivered a secret proposal (to Michael Flynn) on lifting Russian sanctions. Cohen also became a focus of the Russia probe, but according to today’s reports, the seizures were not directly related to Mueller’s investigation. One source told the Times that “emails, tax documents and business records” were part of the seizure, so perhaps we’ll find out more soon.
UPDATE #1: The FBI’s raid was apparently conducted at the behest of the US Attorney for the southern district of New York, not Robert Mueller. Further, the US Attorney in question was appointed by Trump himself.
UPDATE #2: The New York Times also reports that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein personally signed off on the FBI’s search, and that it also involved a search for information related to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal’s payment related to her National Enquirer catch-and-kill story.