President Donald Trump was obviously not happy with the recent FBI raid on the home and offices of his long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen — and there might be a very good reason why.
“I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys. Good man. And it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt,” Trump said at the time, calling the lawful raid an “attack” on “what we all stand for.”
For the record, no one “broke into” Cohen's office — authorities obtained search warrants.
As The Washington Post recently reported, several people familiar with Cohen said the attorney has a penchant for recording his conversations with associates and then digitizing them. Apparently, he sometimes even played those tapes for his colleagues.
Now, Trump allies are worried intelligence officials are in possession of those recordings. This could be extremely problematic for the commander-in-chief, who may or may not have had an affair with an adult film actress and an alleged child with a Trump World Tower employee.
“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” a Trump adviser told the publication. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? Did they find his recordings?”
The report said Cohen recorded both business and political conversations, but it’s unclear if the attorney, who reportedly paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election so she would not disclose any information regarding her alleged affair with Trump, also recorded his conversations with his clients, which includes the business mogul-turned-politician.
“If you are looking for evidence, you can’t do any better than people talking on tape,” Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, told the newspaper.
Following the raid, Trump, whose 2016 campaign is being investigated for possible collusion with Russia, took to Twitter to exclaim the client-attorney privilege was “dead.”
But, as the report noted, if investigators did acquire audio recordings from Cohen’s electronic devices, a separate Justice Department team (and maybe even a judge) would first listen to it in order to maintain the attorney-client privilege. Only if those conversations hinted at “further commission of a crime or fraud” or were related to the terms of the search warrant, would the investigators gain access to it.
New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, who specializes in legal ethics, said such recordings “would be considered a gold mine.”
“The significance is 9.5 to 10 on a 10-point scale,” he said. “When people speak on the phone, they are not guarded. They don’t imagine that the conversation will surface.”
While Trump seemed to be fuming, Cohen said the FBI agents “were extremely professional, courteous and respectful.”
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Brendan McDermid