FBI agents raided and seized records from President Trump's long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Multiple news outlets report that agents took records related to payments Cohen made to the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. William Brangham talks to Eric Tucker of the Associated Press.
FBI agents today raided and seized communications from President Trump's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
In a statement, Cohen's lawyer called the seizures "completely inappropriate and unnecessary." He confirmed federal prosecutors had obtained a series of search warrants, upon referrals from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia probe.
Multiple news outlets report that agents seized records related to payments Cohen made to an adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels. She claims she had an affair with Mr. Trump in 2006.
Eric Tucker covers the Justice Department for the Associated Press, and he has been on this story.
Eric Tucker, welcome to the "NewsHour."
I wonder if you could tell us, what else do we know about these raids today?
So, we know they took place at his office in Manhattan, and we know that they seized records relating to multiple different topics, including, as you mentioned, records relating to the $130,000 that Michael Cohen has admitted making, the payment he has admitted to Stormy Daniels.
We know — I'm no lawyer, but the idea of attorney-client privilege is an incredibly sacrosanct part of American law, so what is it that would prompt attorneys to have been investigated like this, to have these raids conducted?
That's a great question.
And when you actually look at the Justice Department protocol and manuals, they actually do lay out a mechanism by which you can seize records from an attorney. And so what it really does suggest is that this is a process that went through multiple levels and layers of approval in order to get the action that we saw today.
So, you know, in an ordinary search warrant, obviously, you have to go to a judge and you lay out probable cause that a crime was committed and that the records that you're going to be obtaining will bear out evidence of a potential crime. And so one imagine that the government here must really think they have that sort of evidence.
Help me understand something that seems a bit confusing on the surface.
If this was a referral from Robert Mueller's office, yet it's relating to Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen's interactions with her, how does that work? As far as we know, Mueller wasn't necessarily looking into the Stormy Daniels issue.
Right. That's another great question.
We do know, based on on-the-record statements from a Trump campaign associate named Sam Nunberg, that among the questions he was asked before the grand jury were questions that related to the Stormy Daniels payment. He was around during the campaign and so he says he was asked about that.
And so it does appear that special counsel Mueller is taking his mandate seriously to say, look, I'm responsible for investigating certain elements of President Trump and his campaign and not others. And so he is empowered and indeed authorized and encouraged to make referrals to other entities within the Justice Department when he sees activity that might fall outside of his mandate.
All right, Eric Tucker of the Associated Press, thank you very much.
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William Brangham is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C. He joined the flagship PBS program in 2015, after spending two years with PBS NewsHour Weekend in New York City.
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