Michael Cohen’s Stormy Weather: Four Observations

As you’ve no doubt heard, the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s office, home, and hotel today. They were looking for stuff related to his payoff to Stormy Daniels … and other things, including (per the WaPo) “possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.”

Some thoughts:

Geoffrey Berman, a symptom of Trump’s corruption, is responsible

As NYT first reported, this raid was a referral from Robert Mueller, not something executed by his team.

The prosecutors obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but most likely resulted from information that he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

That means Mueller would have presented the evidence to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who would have made the decision to hand off the lead to Southern District of NY, with the folks there buying into not the investigation but the unusual raid of an attorney’s office.

Which, in turn, means it was approved by the US Attorney for SDNY. After Trump fired Preet Bharara (who was honing in on some of Trump’s corruption), he prioritized replacing Preet’s deputy, Joon Kim (who very recently returned to his former law firm). He replaced him not by elevating someone else, but by installing someone — Geoffrey Berman — he had interviewed personally. Berman is, if anything, a symbol of Trump’s abuse, not least because he hasn’t even been nominated formally. He’s a bureaucratic end-around.

And he had to have signed off on this raid (unless he recused, which will earn him the wrath of Trump all by itself).

Update: ABC did confirm yesterday that Berman did recuse. Daily Beast describes that Republican Robert Khuzami’s in charge.

[T]he recusal by Berman the developer’s son, the referral from Mueller is being handled by the deputy U.S. Attorney, Robert Khuzami. He is the son of two professional ballroom dancers.

That’s right, Mr. President, his dad and mom are ballroom dancers!

Deputy U.S. Attorney Khuzami is a Republican and even spoke at the 2004 Republican convention in support of George W. Bush.

But that will only make it harder for Trump to say he is the victim of Democrats.

And Khuzami is an expert at financial crimes, having ordered the arrest of 120 people for securities fraud in a single day during his earlier time as a Manhattan federal prosecutor. He subsequently served as head of enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Trump’s Friday comments probably made this worse

This raid is not all about Stormy Daniels, but some of it is. Which suggests Trump’s comments on Friday, in which he disavowed the payment Cohen made on his behalf, probably made this worse.

Q Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

THE PRESIDENT: No. No. What else?

Q Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.

Q Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t know. No.

By claiming — almost certainly falsely — not to have known about the payment to Daniels, Trump probably scotched any claim Cohen might make to privilege. It also meant that Cohen either claimed to be representing Trump falsely, or is lying in sworn documents about doing so.

This raid would have had to have been approved over some time, not Friday afternoon. But one way or another, I imagine these comments made it easier for DOJ and a judge to approve the raid, at least with respect to the Stormy Daniels material.

Manafort will shortly get this raid approved for Mueller

Last week, in my analysis of the Mueller filing explaining his mandate, I suggested he was getting some things approved that weren’t relevant to the Manafort challenge but were relevant to the larger investigation.

Like this:

The filing includes a quotation from DOJ’s discussion of special counsels making it clear that it’s normal to investigate crimes that might lead someone to flip.

[I]n deciding when additional jurisdiction is needed, the Special Counsel can draw guidance from the Department’s discussion accompanying the issuance of the Special Counsel regulations. That discussion illustrated the type of “adjustments to jurisdiction” that fall within Section 600.4(b). “For example,” the discussion stated, “a Special Counsel assigned responsibility for an alleged false statement about a government program may request additional jurisdiction to investigate allegations of misconduct with respect to the administration of that program; [or] a Special Counsel may conclude that investigating otherwise unrelated allegations against a central witness in the matter is necessary to obtain cooperation.”

That one is technically relevant here — one thing Mueller is doing with the Manafort prosecution (and successfully did with the Gates one) is to flip witnesses against Trump. But it also makes it clear that Mueller could do so more generally.

So when Amy Berman Jackson rules against what was ultimately a desperate bid by Trump’s campaign chair, she’ll be implicitly approving of practices like “investigating otherwise unrelated allegations against a central witness” if it’s “necessary to obtain cooperation.”

And just to be sure, Michael Dreeben will be on hand for this argument.

Trump has no appropriate lawyer to this task

Trump is wailing right now about this raid.

So I just heard they broke into the office of one of my personal attorn[ey]s…It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down. I’ve given over a million pages in documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward and here we are talking about Syria, we’re talking about a lot of serious things…and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. Actually it’s much more than that. You could say right after I won the nomination it started.

When I saw this, when I heard about it, that is a whole new level of unfairness.

This has been going on. I saw one of the reporters who is not necessarily a fan of mine…he said this is now getting ridiculous. They found no collusion what so ever with Russia.

This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I have ever seen. Democrats — all. Either Democrats or a couple of Republicans who worked for President Obama. They’re not looking at the other side — Hillary Clinton… all of the crimes that were committed, all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about from the Republican side and the independent side. They only keep looking at us.

They raided the office of a personal attorney early in the morning. It’s a disgrace. So we’ll be talking about it more.

[snip]

The stock market dropped a lot today as soon as they heard the noise you know of this nonsense that was going on. It dropped a lot. It was up — it was way up. It dropped quite a bit at the end. That we have to go through that. We’ve had that hanging over us from the very, very beginning. And yet the other side they’re not even looking. And the other side is where there are crimes and those crimes are obvious — lies under oath all over the place, emails that are knocked out, that are acid washed and deleted, 33,000 emails were deleted after getting a subpoena from Congress. And nobody bothers looking at that.

Amid the wailing, Trump suggested he might fire Mueller.

“Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “Many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”

As he nudges closer to firing Mueller, remember: after having chased John Dowd off, Trump has no competent defense attorney.

He may well fire Mueller. But he has no one to guide him out of the morass that doing so will cause.

187 replies
  1. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Michael Avenatti is almost the polar opposite of Mueller in terms of how he’s run things in public, but he’s been pretty good at getting Cohen and Cohen’s lawyers and finally the Idiot himself to file things and say things that expose enough of a long history of dirty faux-legal and extra-legal activity for prosecutors to prod at it.

      • Sabrina Gallant says:

        Interesting point. I don’t know what Dowd’s been up to since he left the WH but it certainly would make sense that any lawyer with a modicum of knowledge and legal ability (for all his flaws, he’s better than what DJT has left for legal counsel!) would be trying to get out of there at all costs as the house of cards looks like it’s on the verge of folding. I also wonder if he has a “personal stake” in the issues and whether he will be useful to Mueller at all now that he’s no longer bound to represent DJT.

  2. jharp says:

    So our sitting President states that the FBI “broke into the office of one of my personal attorn[ey]s”

    I am at a loss for words.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice.”

      The Idiot is all about the extrajudicials and fuck due process for other people, but executing a warrant on his “lawyer” is breaking and entering. It’s that pathological sense that the law does not apply to him.

    • Dev Null says:

      @jharp: I was taken aback by “an attack on our country in a true sense, an attack on what we all stand for”.

      It’s already been pointed out that Trump hasn’t condemned Russian election interference in such strong terms.

  3. Bob Conyers says:

    Does anyone have a sense of how likely this investigation would continue if and when Trump finally loses patience with Mueller?

    I don’t have a good sense of how hard it would be to tell a US attorney to shut down a case, although I suspect that if Trump goes after Mueller all bets are off as to what he’ll try to do.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      No. And anyone who says otherwise is lying or a fool, because the second- and third-order effects are pretty much impossible to predict.

    • orionATL says:

      with no political forces opposing or limiting him, and no insight into what legal forces he might provoke to resist him by firing mueller, i would predict that trump will eventually, inevitably, sieze power and attempt to rule in the same fundamentally autocratic way that southern governerors of the 1885-1965 era did.

      in saying this i am raising a question of interest to me that i have not seen discussed, to whit, what laws, rules, cutoms, or powers might mueller or rosenstein invoke to protect themselves from firing?

      another, longer term, issue i’ve mentioned before is that trump’s excesses as a president may finally drive the congress and/or the judiciary to set (currently missing) limits on the power of any president. especially on the power to protect himself from criminal investigation and prosecution.

  4. BroD says:

    My sense though is that, in view of the referral, the investigation (and potential indictment) of Cohen would proceed whether or not Mueller is fired and also that that investigation could very well implicate Trump.    Is this plausible?

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      If investigating Cohen is the red line (ugh, thanks Maggie & the Habernauts for that) then assuming that it would be allowed to continue under a different jurisdiction and set of investigators seems like a stretch.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        I would be curious what the collateral damage at DOJ would be. I don’t think there would be widespread resignations, but I have to admit I’m not 100% sure what would happen if Mueller, Rosenstein and others were thrown to the curb.

  5. Rugger9 says:

    It depends on how much heat the GOP is willing to take, although I would expect they will back the Kaiser on this since they are equally up to their eyeballs in the collusion case at least, from Pence all the way down.  So, it is in their interest to spike the investigations like Nunes tried to do.  There are enough commissars in the otherwise understaffed departments to make sure things will not be seen.

  6. Domye West says:

    Lol this is all crazy. What an insane story.

    On Twitter it was mentioned that if the SC was going to flip Cohen, they wouldn’t give the case to SDNY. EW talking about how the SC specifically mentioning they could investigate crimes to flip a witness, is key- the SC could be keeping him and instead of referring the case to SDNY, SC would use SDNY to execute the searches and be the clean team (taint lol) before handing it to the SC.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Cohen’s not going to flip. That’s a prediction that I feel fairly confident making.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        You’re probably right, but I wouldn’t rule it out. In Cohen I see a lot more Henry Hill (or Felix Sater) than G. Gordon Liddy. Cohen has a lot of assets and family to protect, and he knows Trump is already leaning toward throwing him under the bus. But he’s also fairly deranged, so I can’t go so far to argue he’d make a rational calculation.

    • Avattoir says:

      The SDNYUSa office serving as executor and taint team is something that, maybe others have too but, Preet Bharara tweeted out on today. Seems to me he’d be in an especially good position to surmise this.

      It also makes sense when one considers, Why would the OSC effectively refer out to a ‘regular’ USa office the full product of this search, KNOWING that it’s at least possible that product will bear on the OSC’s mandate? The sensible response would be, of course, Occam’s Razor – that such is not what the OSC is doing here.

      I’ve only been involved in two incidents of searches executed on the offices of attorneys for, well, more than ‘persons of interest’. It can be a very cumbersome, convoluted process to get thru the vetting. In both the cases I was involved in, more than just ‘taint team’ government attorneys were appointed: attorneys were also appointed for “the clients” as a class, and as particular client interests arose, they or their attorneys of record had to be notified, potentially to intervene in court to protect their clients money, mostly interests. One of those cases involved an attorney who had substantial – more than dozens – of files open relating to things like escrow on property purchases and monies yet to be distributed from settlements on a variety of lawsuits. It took MONTHS to resolve to completion, the more complex one taking around a year to get to sending out or closing out all the active files. That doesn’t seem quite like what’s involved here, i.e. multiple otherwise unconnected clients; but there may well be many, many files, and they may technically involve corporations and ventures that aren’t ‘just’ Donald John Trump concerns.

      Also, in both the cases in which I was involved, the searches weren’t executed anywhere near the beginning of the investigations. Indeed, in one of them, once the taint team had done it’s business (sorry), indictment followed very quickly. In the other, seized files came out of the vetting process on a peripatetic basis that the prosecution side had input into but not control over.

      And in my (admittedly little bit of) experience, the phrase ‘It’s not something that government investigators do lightly’ doesn’t remotely do justice to all the preceding considerations that have to be put into play.

      Finally, MOST of the work in resolving the distribution of seized materials was done in closed court settings. Just saying, it’s unlikely there’ll be some big juicy court process that can be live-tweeted or even reported on publicly by ms media

      • Trip says:

        You are right, we have no idea the scope or specific justification uncovered and used, to execute the raids. There could be patterns of loans, wired money movement, and newly independently established LLCs, over time, tied to some other payouts. It’s difficult to imagine that Stormy Daniels was a one off situation. But it’s all speculation.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        What counts as the kind of evidence needed to justify this? My intuition tells me they have either electronic messages or voice recordings (or both) directly involving Cohen where he spells out his involvement in a crime. I’d put odds against this being something they’d do solely on something like the word of informants or financial records.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It’s possible this will be resolved sooner.  Cohen was a likely target of Mueller’s investigation from the get go.  He has been Trump’s go to fixer, his mini-Roy Cohn (with less than half the talent), for a decade.  Trump has been his principal or only client for much of that time.  Cohen is a principal, not an intermediary.

        If Mueller and the FBI are relying on the crime-fraud exception for client confidentiality, other likely participants in those crimes are Trump, his family and his organization.  We’ve been speculating for months that Trump’s most likely vulnerability – regarding his conduct generally and illegal election-related acts in particular – is from financial fraud.  The sources of Trump’s financing for decades have largely been foreigners allegedly associated with organized crime.

        • Trip says:

          Of course, @earl. At the very least, he was the intermediary for the Ukraine deal.  If Cohen was never investigated, from any angle, that would have demonstrated incompetence on Mueller’s part.

      • emptywheel says:

        Thanks for that insight. I agree, SDNY may just be the most convenient way to establish a taint team.

        • Trip says:

          I know it’s a commonly used term, but the colloquial euphemism background on it….it conjures images I’d rather not think about, especially in the morning.

            • R Wood says:

              What I was thinking as well, but would not be surprised if some state charges followed along very soon.

              I like to think that Mueller is just plain up to his ears in work with the Russia investigation, and gave this one to the SDNY as he was simply too busy. It makes me smile.

               

              • Dev Null says:

                @RWood @Michelle: I don’t know what this statement is based on, but Paul Waldman writes in the WaPost:

                The privileged information will then go to what’s sometimes referred to as a “taint team,” a group of Justice Department officials who will review it and decide whether it shows enough evidence of a crime that it falls outside attorney-client privilege. They will then pass that information on to a judge, who could then permit it to be used by Mueller, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the New York state attorney general, or the Manhattan district attorney. In other words, Cohen — and by extension, Trump — has to now worry about more than just Mueller.

                YMMV

      • jayedcoins says:

        Just wanted to throw a “thanks and much appreciated” comment your way. A lot of this news is tough for us non-lawyers to fully comprehend the context and implications of, and while you say your experience in these types of cases is limited, it’s still more than 99.9% of us have. Reading this post explaining some of your experiences certainly made a lot more sense of the last ~18 hours of reports, at least for my pea-brain. :)

        Also, you said “taint.” Hehehe.

      • orionATL says:

        just in case, like me, you didn’t know what a “taint team” was:

        “…Investigations by the Federal Government

        The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has developed a procedure to protect unrelated and privileged information from being reviewed after electronic records are obtained. The DOJ appoints prosecutors and/or agents who are not otherwise assigned to the case under investigation and directs them to review all the electronic records first and identify the portions of those records that their colleagues who are handling the case should not see. These groups of reviewing prosecutors and agents are referred to as “taint teams” because their purpose is to shield the government from a defense motion to suppress electronic record evidence based on an argument that the prosecution and investigating team was “tainted” by viewing electronic records it had no right to see. See United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations, § 2(B)(7) (July 2002). While this may be the best the government can do without giving up its chance to look at all the electronic records it has seized, the taint team procedure has two significant flaws.

        First, the taint team procedure does not prevent the government from seeing privileged, confidential and irrelevant information that is in the electronic records; it merely changes the identity of the government attorneys and agents who first review that information. See, e.g., United States v. Neill, 952 F. Supp. 834, 840-41 & n. 14 (D.D.C. 1997) (finding that a taint team review is a per se intentional intrusion into attorney/client privilege and stating that taint team procedures “create an appearance of unfairness.”) Second, the prosecutors and agents who serve on taint teams cannot be expected to ignore evidence of other crimes they may potentially find in the electronic records they are reviewing, even if the government would not otherwise have suspected the commission of such crimes or, if it had, would not have had the right to obtain evidence of those crimes from these electronic records. The DOJ procedure provides the illusion of protection but does not solve the fundamental problem that attorneys and agents for the government are able to review information they have no right to see…”

        https://www.wilmerhale.com/pages/publicationsandnewsdetail.aspx?NewsPubId=94347

  7. TheraP says:

    This all is tumbling out so rapidly.  And it all sounds so very ominous.

    Especially this quote at the end of a WaPo article tonight:

    “When it comes to Michael Cohen, anything is possible,” said Louise Sunshine, a former Trump Organization executive who knows Cohen.  “Anything and everything is possible.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-bomb-on-trumps-front-porch-fbis-cohen-raids-hit-home-for-the-president/2018/04/09/6abb816e-3c37-11e8-974f-aacd97698cef_story.html

    I actually found that particular quote quite scary.  And some of the comments already posted (above) confirmed that for me.  Which makes me even more apprehensive.

    • Bobby Gladd says:

      I know! Let’s bomb Syria and kill some Russians. While at the same time firing Mueller, Rosenstein, and Sessions!

      Shit could all go south pretty quick, especially with The Mustache at the Left Hand of the Father.

      • matt says:

        Maybe we don’t have to bomb Syria… Israel did it.  They finally fought their own battle in the light of day.  Although its funny that the US denied carrying out that attack, and the Israeli also denied it, even though their F-16 was shot down.  I can’t believe the NYT today so openly explained Israel’s prime role and motivations in the Syrian conflict.  Let them fight Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, Assad, and Russia.  This might be the first time I agree with Trump- bring our troops home.

        • Fran of the North says:

          To the best of my understanding (and the article was confusing) the loss of the Israeli F-16 was on a previous mission, not the most recent bombing.

        • anne says:

          @matt  I agree, let Israel fight it’s own battles in the Middle East.  Bring our troops home.  Also cutoff the $3,000,000,000 annual subsidy.

      • Dev Null says:

        @Bobby Gladd: Tom Friedman being the Mustache of Wisdom, what would John Bolton be the Mustache of?

    • JD12 says:

      I think the President is more paranoid and delusional than any of us know. He thinks everyone is out to get him, a lot of people are, but you can see it’s getting worse. Attacking the media, FBI, tariffs on China, troops at the Mexican border, Syria strikes, it looks like puffery but the man is really scared. The world has seen paranoid leaders before and it usually doesn’t end well. Hopefully our checks and balances hold up, he’s getting noticeably worse by the week.

      • Trip says:

        He’s a dangerous giant baby-man narcissist. He believes that warrants executed on ‘some’ lawyer, only personally attached to him, not the US gov’t, its policies and structures, is an attack on the country. Trump thinks that HE is the country and by extension, so is M Cohen. That is what is very dangerous for our country, a leader who believes he is the entitled aristocratic, monarchy, nobility who, with his friends and associates, deserves absolute distinction and exemption from the laws, which only govern his lowly ‘subjects’.

        • Palli says:

          Naive me just keeps thinking: Why wasn’t trump cut off at the knees 20-30 years ago? What an indictment to our society that it nourishes trump types…

        • jayedcoins says:

          Bingo. Couldn’t agree more, Trip.

          I think it is, almost as a rule, a fair criticism of any politician that pushes to the level of running for POTUS that your ego has to be substantial. I think it’s actually a necessity for the job. I’m not going to be one to credulously claim that, say, HRC or Obama were “clean.” I don’t think anyone can be “clean” and get to that level.

          But with Trump, there’s no redeeming quality. He didn’t come up as a community organizer. He didn’t have to work hard in law school. He had no adversity to fight through because of his sex or his skin color. Obama and Hillary ain’t perfect, but I think that those aforementioned things serve to keep otherwise egotistical people in partial check — if your early years were spent organizing at the small community level, that experience will be formative and will always carry tremendous weight on what you do, even as POTUS in your 50s.

          • DavidTC says:

            Not just the Democrats. George W. Bush may not have been perfect, but at least he had some level of noblesse oblige. And either humility or the ability and willingness to fake humility trained into him.

            He might have felt he was better than you, but he could hide it and at least shake your hand and listen politely to you if it was required. And he didn’t felt he knew everything, nor that he could make perfect decisions without any input. (Granted, his choice of input was often Cheney, but Cheney is at least technically another human being, or at least a human-shaped lizard person.)

            Same with his father, and of course with Reagan. Sure, they were dismissive of the problems of poor people, Republicans always are, but they would at least pretend to care, and you felt they could be in a room of poor people without going inside. They could at least pretend they weren’t the most important person in the room, that other things besides them mattered.

            Even Nixon, who devolved into paranoid lunacy in private and was probably our most unbalanced president until this one, didn’t have a rampant unchecked ego. And he, at least, understood how committing crimes would, duh, cause him problems. I mean, he did crimes anyway, but he understood that, for example, he probably shouldn’t brag about them in public.

            Because he wasn’t a narcissist and wasn’t an idiot, which are basically Trump’s two problems. (That and he has always had enough money, or people willing to give him enough money, to never have to either of those fact inhibit him until now.)

    • Bob Conyers says:

      I read one take on Trump’s demeanor as he made those remarks which I found interesting. It claimed that Trump’s delivery was unusually scattered – “This didn’t feel like the spirited, righteous defense of an innocent man defending himself, this felt like someone who was going over a mental checklist of what they could have found in his head while speaking.”

      https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/04/trump-tries-to-convince-himself-everythings-fine-in-response-to-fbi-raid-of-cohens-office.html

      I’m a long way from being an expert on the many moods of Trump, and I can’t judge how valid this is. But it suggests to me that the scope of his legal peril is finally sinking in to him, and the need to see this in legal, not sales and marketing terms, is sinking in. At least a little bit.

      The cracking of denial for deeply flawed people is usually a really dangerous thing, although he may finally decide he needs real lawyers, if he can find any.

      • TheraP says:

        “the cracking of denial for deeply flawed people…”

        That’s the Paranoia we’re seeing. It’s a way of externalizing the blame. Of not recognizing the reality. And along with the Paranoia & the delusional entitlement, we have seen his sadism, his cruelty. Lashing out. “Moral emptiness” is a term I read somewhere this morning. A moral void.

        And if Cohen’s vacuous morality is equal or worse… who knows what will be found in those papers they’ve taken possession of? We may never know the whole of it. Both of them, I think, would never care about the collateral damage. To anyone. To the nation. The Republic.

      • JD12 says:

        Bob Conyers

        It did look like it hit him pretty hard. He was slouching and looking down, he’s never looked like that before.

         

  8. gedouttahear says:

    As fallout from these  searches, I expect that among the people who are really going to get hit hard by the execrable amerikan prez is the execrable president of syria. I suspect the searches of cohen’s digs turned up weapons of ass destruction. 

  9. Rapier says:

    Berman to me is suspect only because he even accepted the job.  If not politically suspect then his judgement  can be easily questioned.  It would take a mighty strong personality for him to not move on this when I think we can be sure the institutional pressure to carry this thing forward is enormous.

    The whole thing today with the searches seems deliberately provocative.

    The stock selloff  this afternoon was certainly ‘news’ related.  I mention because Trump did. There was a mighty short covering rally in stock index futures starting about 9PM but is now petering out. Leaving what I satirically refer to as a finger formation on the charts.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Avenatti is good.  But he probably can’t believe his luck.  If Cohen’s shoulders are unable to bear what the Don is piling on them, Avenatti might have to wait quite some time for his two hour deposition.

      Separately, my guess is that Mueller’s team put in a helluva lot of homework before making that referral.  That would mean time is not on Mr. Cohen’s side. About now, he must be feeling like Capt. Hook does when he hears tick-tock..

      • pseu[email protected] says:

        Avenatti is good.  But he probably can’t believe his luck.

        “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

        Which perhaps doesn’t quite apply here, but Avenatti’s willingness to pick up this case and client at this time in this manner suggests that he’s worked hard enough to get lucky.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I think Daniels deserves credit too for teaming up with a strong attorney. Avenatti is blustery, but there are a lot of blustery attorneys she could have hired who would be a lot less effective.

      • bmaz says:

        There were multiple levels of authorities, all understanding the extreme significance of what they were doing. They all signed on to this. And, yes, this has been in process for a while. Trump’s idiotic responses on AF1 just saved the deal. There is a LOT behind that. A  lot.

        • Peterr says:

          What’s the likelihood of Avenatti sitting down with someone from Mueller’s team and saying something like “I know you can’t tell me what you’ve got and what you’re looking for, but I can tell you what I’ve got and what you might be able to find if you look in the right places. You see, in the course of seeking to assist my client, I’ve come across certain items that are tangential to my work but appear to be highly relevant to your inquiries . . .”?

          A second question: if Avenatti has come across evidence of illegal acts by a fellow officer of the court (Cohen), does he have an obligation to bring those matters to the relevant authorities (Mueller)?

          • bmaz says:

            As to the first question, if Avenatti wanted to hand over evidence or thoughts, the Mueller shop would receive the same. They wouldn’t be saying anything on their end back though. As to the second question, there is generally some obligation, but it is not necessarily adhered to regularly.

            • Peterr says:

              Thanks.

              I got to thinking about the photo of the DVD that Avenatti tweeted out, and his explanation of it to Wolf Blizter (emphasis added):

              Avenatti said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the disc contains evidence proving the porn star’s claims about her alleged affair with Trump.

              “I want to be really clear about this: It is a warning shot. And it’s a warning shot to Michael Cohen and anyone else associated with President Trump that they better be very, very careful after Sunday night relating to what they say about my client and what spin or lies they attempt to tell the American people,” Avenatti said.

              The headline at CNN to this story calls it a warning to Trump, and other outlets follow suit. But notice who got name-dropped? Call me crazy, but I think the DVD probably had as much about Cohen as about Trump, if not more. For instance, if that proof of the affair included records of correspondence between Cohen and Daniels/Clifford setting up the NDA, and that correspondence included some of Cohen’s trademark movie-gangster dialogue, or evidence of Cohen stepping on the wrong side of the legal lines, that puts Trump in generic danger but Cohen in very specific danger.

              Just a WAG, but I’m in a WAGgy kind of mood.

              I’m thinking that Avenatti passed a copy of that disk to Team Mueller on Friday afternoon, and it had more than a few little items related to Michael Cohen.
      • Rugger9 says:

        Manafort too.  It will be a race to see who flips first, noting that both Cohen and Manafort have “friends” in low places that may not like the publicity.

        If anything makes it to trial on these raids (seeing how hard Manafort is trying to limit the damage) the palace and its minions will probably go down.  After all there is an election in 7 months that just might mean real trouble for the GOP.  It’s bad enough for wishful thinking triage over at Booman Tribune (“Will the GOP Abandon the House to Save the Senate?”; 4/9/18 at 09:48:40 EST).

        The GOP for its part is trying to rally its base by the impeachment boogeyman, as usual Pierce says it best.  Mind that none of the Ds have campaigned to impeach anyone.

        https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a19718882/impeaechment-republicans-2018-election/

        • Dev Null says:

          @Rugger9: One of the recs at dKos (possibly a front-pager, don’t remember) yesterday argued the same point that Booman made: as things stand today, Goopers are facing strong headwinds as we go into the midterms (heck, Mitch McConnell used almost exactly those words.)

          And the Cook Report has moved another 15 House seats towards the Dems, so it isn’t just liberals / Dems who think so.

          But then there’s 538:

          https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-russia-could-steal-the-midterms/

          (which I haven’t had the stomach to read yet, so YMMV.)

          EDIT: sorry if this posts twice … I’m having network problems.

    • Desider says:

      Stormy Monday, no? (and no, Tuesday’s not just the same, more Ruby-like, but quite the hangover and regrets). Say goodbye…

  10. Avattoir says:

    Even if I were a fully qualified screenwriter/musician/photographer, without seeing what was put in front of the authorizing authority, I’d be loathe to make high percentage claims on the “Real” purpose of a given search warrant.

    • orionATL says:

       

      yeah. as usual with these events, we’re only seeing the shadows on the cave wall.

      we need more data points, aka information. and in time we’ll get them.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The raid implicates Cohen in what the FBI has probable cause to believe is criminal conduct.  The crimes would be serious felonies or a federal judge would not have authorized the search against a sitting president’s personal attorney’s offices and hotel room.

    The referral implies that the suspected crimes do not directly relate to the scope of Mueller’s formal remit.  If it reveals material pertinent to Mueller’s case, and it was legally obtained under the relevant warrant(s), that material would be handed over to Mueller. Independent crimes against Cohen would be pursued by the Bureau in the SDNY.

    Mr. Mueller might have some pull with them when it came to charging or sentencing recommendations.  It would be legitimate for him to use it if he thought doing so would be useful in making a deal with Cohen to flip.  But the pressure would come from Cohen facing liability for his own prior bad acts.

    As Marcie says, Trump and Cohen both acted to protect Trump by almost certainly mischaracterizing their relationship regarding the Clifford matter (and possibly many others like it).  That may lead to independent claims regarding perjury or lying to investigators.  But as it stands, both men claim that Cohen acted not as an attorney but on his own behalf in dealing with Clifford.  That opens a can of worms, especially for Cohen: ethical violations, fraud against Clifford, invalidity of the NDA, sorting out claims in open court, creating a public record, campaign finance claims, ad nauseum.  Cohen can’t hide behind client confidentiality rules.  He would have his Fifth Amendment and other constitutional rights, the ones available to any other defendant.

    Cohen’s license, his livelihood and his freedom are now in jeopardy.  Any steps by Trump to protect him as a way to protect himself quickly open him up to claims of obstruction.  As Marcie points out, Trump has no lawyer capable of helping him navigate the minefield he’s now in.  Both men tonight will be reaching for their brown corduroy trousers.  The Clifford case is a nit in the scheme of things, but it may also be the opening of a seacock on the hull of the USS Trumpeter.

    • Rugger9 says:

      I think NYS AG Schneiderman will get some of this as well.  He might want to have a chat with Mr. Cohen.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m increasingly convinced the referral was about clean teaming this. (And also providing cover.)

      • bmaz says:

        Been pondering this since yesterday, and I think – think – it is what makes the most sense. But it is what you have in parentheses that is what most convinces me. It would be elegant, and very Mueller like, to not just clean, but spread out the cover too.

        • Peterr says:

          Also, it spreads out the costs — SDNY has far more resources to staff this, while Mueller would have to pull together a clean team by raiding other DOJ offices or hiring outside lawyers. That means money, and that means only adding fodder to the chanting of the far right wing (in and out of Congress) about wasted money on a witch hunt.

          Similarly, I could see Drebeen and the appellate lawyers telling Mueller “Get folks who’ve done this before, otherwise you’re giving Cohen et al. a wide path to challenge stuff on appeal. Not that they would succeed, but the path would be that much harder if it’s just Our Guys doing it. The appellate court will be much more likely to accept an argument that says ‘these people at SDNY have procedures for this, they done this X times in the last 5 years, and they know what they’re doing.’ If we set up our own team, even with the same procedures, the defense is going to go after all these rookies (despite their experience otherwise) and make the appeal that much lengthier.”

      • Dev Null says:

        @EW, @bmaz: Not being a lawyer, I am not sure which of several possible meanings of these two sentences is intended. Would it be possible to elaborate?

        At least for one possible meaning of “cover”, if it’s true as USA Today reports that Rosenstein “recused” Berman, farming out to SDNY would not seem to provide “cover” for the SC.

        And I get that having information filtered by SDNY before it’s handled by the SC team makes a lot of sense, but did you intend more than that?

        Incidentally, Popehat has an op-ed in the NYT that says that law enforcement can use any evidence of unrelated crimes discovered in process as long as the warrant is solid:

        https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/opinion/trump-michael-cohen-fbi-raid.html

        The Stormy Daniels payout may be outside the scope of the Russia investigation, but it’s possible that Mr. Cohen’s records are full of materials that are squarely within that scope. And the law is clear: If investigators executing a lawful warrant seize evidence of additional crimes, they may use that evidence. Thus Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, with their catastrophically clumsy handling of the Daniels affair, may have handed Mr. Mueller devastating evidence.

        I assume this underlies a lot of the writing here but (again: IANAL) I haven’t seen the point stated this clearly elsewhere.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    For Trump to fire Mueller, he has to go through Rosenstein.  If Rosenstein refuses to fire him, Trump will have to replace him (or replace Sessions) until he finds someone who will fire Mueller.  The fallout from a similar scenario in the Nixon case was one of the precursors to his resignation.

    Unlike Nixon, Trump would never resign short of seeing Ivanka and Jared marched off to the pokey and his businesses about to go into receivership.  But being Trump, that would simply spur him to do what his lifelong anger management issues always lead him to do: rampage until he breaks so many things his opponent caves or someone steps in and stops him.  John Bolton is the guy to help him break things.  Is there anyone who might help restrain him without the cost of that restraint being higher than the china Trump is about to break?

    • Bobby Gladd says:

      It seems to me that we have now passed the point where a “Mueller Night Massacre” can stop the accruing legal process writ large. But, maybe a totally reckless war can serve to keep the wolves at bay for a time.

      My daughter in now in hospice care. I could do without the stress of wondering every day whether Trump will precipitate a worldwide conflagration to try to save his sorry ass.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Is there anyone who might help restrain him

      We’re likely to be at the Ceaușescu threshold, the kind of situation where if the White House didn’t have a familiar name, global journalists would call it “the presidential palace.” All bets would be fucking off.

      • orionATL says:

        “restrain him?”

        that’s a key question. among his staff, and cabinet level advisors probably not. trump has conducted a thorough house cleaning; that is another of his follies – getting rid of all who do not genuflect.

        but among his informal advisors/friends, the kitchen cabinet? who knows. one can hope.

        a problem though, even for those folks, is that trump is impulsive, a hothead. there may not be time before hecacts to get info into his head

  13. Avattoir says:

    Not gonna say there’s a heck of a lot of speculation being indulged on the bare news of these searches having been executed.

    Crikey, we don’t even know if the feds got ANYTHING, let alone what it was.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It would be unlike Mueller to set this ball rolling if he was not confident in the multiple sources of information his team would have developed about the evidence of crimes that might be at those locations.

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    For once, Mr. Trump is right.  The raid on Monday by the public corruption unit at the FBI’s office in the SDNY, “is an attack on what we [Trump & Co.] all stand for.”  Like “inconceivable”, though, that may not mean what Mr. Trump thinks it means.

    • Rugger9 says:

      The funny thing is that the SDNY Feebs were the agents that are tight with Rudy G. (maybe he’s on a Mueller list too) and the source of the HRC email caper about Huma Abedin’s computer that they had but did not search (by choice, they never even tried to get access) before leaking about all of those classified emails (that weren’t there).  If the palace lost its leverage over that office, with the Kaiser’s personal pick in charge, the end is near for Caesar Disgustus.

      Fun fact: Mandy Patinkin (who played Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride where the phrase comes from) was also the original Che for Evita on Broadway. It’s worth a listen.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        “Caesar Disgustus”  ROFLMAO Thanx for that!

        Trumpty Dumpty sat on his wall… I am hoping your take on the implications of this with regard to the SDNY prove correct.

         

  16. Charles says:

    What I found most interesting was the genesis of the referral.

    Clearly Mueller was investigating Cohen for something when he came across information that implicated Cohen in a crime related (or so reporting suggests) to the Stormy Daniels payoff. It would have had to be very strong evidence to persuade DoJ to potentially breach attorney-client privilege, which could scotch any other cases involving Cohen. That suggests to me that it might be a document that was sent to someone who is now a cooperating witness, or just the testimony of that person, and that Cohen has denied its existence. That would be enough to trigger a no-knock warrant with the goal of producing the denied document, and enough to convict Cohen of obstruction.

    As Matthew Miller tweeted [1], there has to be a second investigation. It could have to do with Cohen’s trip to Prague (or elsewhere in Europe). It could have to do with building a hotel in Moscow. We just don’t know. But Mueller’s investigators were poking into Cohen’s business for some reason when they stumbled into this item, which is outside their purview.

    A slam-dunk obstruction case would sure be a good way to reel Cohen in.

    1. https://twitter.com/matthewamiller/status/983435496021004290

    • JD12 says:

      Cohen’s denial of the Prague trip always seemed odd. He showed Buzzfeed his passport and photos of him with his daughter. He had been to Italy, so he could’ve traveled to Prague and not had a stamp. He denied having multiple passports, like Manafort did, but Buzzfeed had no way to confirm. He could’ve simply denied it, he didn’t need to show Buzzfeed his passport, seems dumb for a lawyer.

      Mueller’s team can probably get a warrant for his cell data. They requested info on 5 Manafort phones which could be used to track his location.

      They may be seeking “historical cell site information,” which helps investigators determine when people were near each other at a particular time, said Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor. They may have subpoenaed phone service providers to obtain the contents of a phone, such as emails and texts, she said.

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-06/mueller-reveals-search-in-manafort-case-suggesting-fresh-trail

      Cohen seems to be the type of guy who thinks he’s the smartest in every room, but from what he’s shown publicly he’s pretty incompetent.

      Location data on these liars could be interesting for this case.

      • emptywheel says:

        You’re saying he went to Prague in July to cover up events that happened after that?

        Or you don’t realize how nonsensical that is?

        I have zero doubt Cohen was involved in cleaning up some stuff. But there’s no reason to believe it happened in Prague, especially since no other unique fact in the dossier has proven correct.

        • Desider says:

          They *could* be investigating crop circles as well, but there’s probably a lot more compelling in the money laundering, payoffs & illegal campaign business than convincing a judge of a search warrant to prove a 2/3-year-old Central European junket.

        • JD12 says:

          I just think his denial was suspicious, like the TV criminal too eager to prove his alibi, as Charles pointed out in the comment below.

          But it happens in real life, too. Aaron Hernandez didn’t need to tell Robert Kraft that he was in the club when Odin Lloyd was murdered. Retroactive cell location data was huge in his case. They used it to get surveillance footage from many locations to corroborate it, which was big for the jury.

          A good lawyer would be aware of this possibility and plan for it, but Cohen is one of the worst lawyers I’ve ever seen. There’s a decent chance he thought his data would be protected.

          I wasn’t thinking about specifics as much as the fact it looks like he’s hiding something. A passport alone isn’t enough to exonerate him from the trip alleged in the dossier, and the possibility of a July trip was something Buzzfeed mentioned.

      • Charles says:

        In the detective shows, the wiseguy who has arranged an alibi for the murder is sure to flaunt it to the investigators.

         

        It did sort of feel like that, didn’t it?

         

        But as emptywheel says, we can’t infer whether or not he went to Prague (or anything much, for that matter). What we can be certain of is that, because an allegation was made to that effect by Christopher Steele, Mueller would be investigating whether it was true or not. He may have completed that investigation long ago and concluded Steele was wrong in whole or in part. We just don’t know. But he would have investigated the allegation, and in the course of that, he might have found evidence about some other action Cohen took when he traveled to Europe.

        • Rugger9 says:

          It would not be clear to me whether stamps would be required to cross borders within the Schengen area of the EU, even for non-EU citizens, unless specifically requested.  Given how Cohen has demonstrated his willingness to operate in the shadows, I doubt he’d want to decorate his passport.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      It’s not clear to me that Mueller had to be investigating Cohen when he found evidence of a crime. Couldn’t he have been looking into something like money laundering at Trump Tower and a witness who was trying to stay on Mueller’s good side handed over a bunch of emails on something separate involving Cohen? Maybe some enemy of Cohen (I’m sure he has many) had evidence he was kiting checks when he paid off Daniels, and just decided to settle a score.

      That doesn’t disprove the second investigation, of course, but it seems also possible that this is a sideshow to what’s going on in the center ring.

      • Charles says:

        I agree: we know precious little about the Mueller investigation, and we need to be honest with ourselves that we are speculating.  I see this sort of speculation as an interesting intellectual exercise, with no practical consequence–just some personal satisfaction if we happen to be correct. We’re competing only with ourselves.

        But: (a) when is an investigator most likely to discover information about a subject? Isn’t it when he is actively trying to get the information? (b) From whom is he most likely to get that information–from an enemy or from a close associate? (c) If it becomes clear that the investigator regards the information of as little value, but still turns it into a high-voltage criminal investigation (attacking a subject with powerful connections using harsh investigative tactics like no-knock warrants), does it not suggest that he has an ulterior motive (e.g., pressuring the subject to disclose other information) in doing so? and (d) given that high-voltage tactics have to be approved by a Trump associate in SDNY and a judge, doesn’t it seem likely that the evidence for the search is overwhelming?

        Of these, propositions (c) and (d) very sound. The other two only lean in one direction. So, we are pretty sure that Mueller has a compelling piece of evidence. We’re also certain that it doesn’t connect to his investigation very directly. We believe, based on reporting, that it has to do with fraud in the Stormy Daniels case, but we admit that it could be something else–for example, an e-mail directing someone threaten Daniels. It could be, as you suggest, totally extraneous… say, a discussion about selling an apartment to a Russian oligarch. But it almost has to be an e-mail, document, or compelling testimony from a close associate. Some Trump associates, like Felix Sater and George Nader, have come in from the cold. And a good guess is that, assuming it’s related to Stormy Daniels, it has to do with how he financed the payment to her. Is it possible he used one of the go-betweens used to launder money into Trump apartments to search for money to pay off his loan?

         

        So, you may be right that what’s important is right in front of us and anything else is a chimera. Maybe Mueller found nothing on Cohen except fraud in the Stormy Daniels case and decided to make an example of him using the no-knock warrant. But I choose the theory I have just presented.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          That’s all fair enough, and I certainly enjoy tea leaf reading too. The only piece of context I’d add is that when doing calculations of the odds, you have to factor in the fact that Cohen is a deeply crooked operator.

          Once you start wading through the swamp, you pretty much have to assume you’ll find something rotten along the way that wasn’t part of your original search.

          I think it’s likely Cohen and Trump have crimes that are linked, I’m just open to the possibility that Cohen has a lot of tangential rottenness that would be hard not to find along the way.

          • Charles says:

            That’s pretty much my point: as far as Mueller is concerned, the Stormy Daniels thing is tangential rottenness.

            But do be aware that the “Taint Team” is supposed to ensure that only the items in the warrant are delivered to the actual investigators. They’re not supposed to look for crimes to prosecute. Unless you’re a Clinton

  17. Lamsmy says:

    To JD12. Cohen’s denial of the Prague meeting reminds me of the doping athletes who protest their innocence by endlessly repeating the they “have never tested positive.” While perhaps technically true, it skirts the larger issue of whether or not they ever used performance enhancing drugs.

    There is a good chance that Cohen did meet with Russian representatives, just not in Prague. Somebody relaying third party information to Steele could simply have gotten the name of the city wrong.

    Hence Cohen’s vehement denial of travelling to Prague. It may be true. But I have yet to hear of him denying any meetings with Russians in Europe which is the main point of the dossier claim.

    • JD12 says:

      Yeah good point, they might want investigators looking into Prague instead of someplace else, like Hungary maybe which is a bit of a blind spot to the Western agencies.

  18. GKJames says:

    And the president’s saying that he didn’t know about the payment to Daniels means there couldn’t have been the necessary meeting of the minds on the confidentiality agreement that he’s aiming to enforce against her.

  19. brumel says:

    Cohen’s lawyer said: “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller.”

    I don’t understand what the implication of “in part” is. That the FBI would have raided Cohen anyway, without a Mueller referral? On what basis?

    • Trip says:

      “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller.”

      Action.

      It may have been referred by Mueller, but the SDNY would have had to have justification, on their own, and pass muster with judges, to get approval. Mueller doesn’t have absolute, unilateral control over all jurisdictions. “Hey, check this out, something might be here” is not sufficient to permit the SDNY to go seize documents, etc., alone.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Also a way to throw some mud at Mueller.

        He knows Berman recused, so he knows *this* investigation will not be killed off.

  20. BlueFeather says:

    Bit of a side note – I don’t think at this point, Mueller has to flip all the big fish like Manafort and Cohen.  You don’t want a case where the only person to be prosecuted is Trump, especially given the legal concerns around prosecuting a sitting president.

    If Gates has flipped, he’s probably provided enough to prove Manafort’s guilt on number of charges, and possibly Trump’s, assuming he is involved.

  21. jill says:

    Food for thought…Hillary would be doing about 30 years in prison if a thorough investigation of *Uranium 1, email scandal, Clinton Foundation foreign money, collusion with the @DNC to rig the democratic primary and assisting the transfer of Libyan arms to Syrian Rebels, and standing down the military response leaving men to die in Benghazi Libya…on and on and on.

    Never raided:
    1. Bill Clinton; 2. Hillary Clinton; 3. Clinton Foundation; 4. Clinton Campaign; 5. DNC; 6. Perkins Coie; 7. FusionGPS; 8. Christopher Steele; 9. James Comey; 10. Andrew McCabe; 11. Terry McAuliffe; 12. James Clapper; 13. John Brennan; 12. Peter Strzok.

    *Mueller was the director of the FBI when Rosenstein supervised the investigation of Uranium 1.

    • bmaz says:

      Hahahahahahaha, thanks for trolling by. I do believe you stopped at the wrong address for bullshit like that. Toodles!

    • emptywheel says:

      You’re repeating stuff from Chuck Johnson’s lawyer, who doesn’t even know what he means by raid?

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      I have a four year old grand daughter who learned a long time ago that blaming her two year old sister for something she did yesterday isn’t gunna float. You have been spinning for Trumpty’s base for too long, the 70% outside of those neo-Nazis, especially those who have children, ain’t buyin’ it anymore. Go back under the bridge.

    • Charles says:

      Jill, at some point you’re going to have to answer the question: is the reason that the Clintons etc. haven’t been raided that there is a massive conspiracy extending throughout all of law enforcement, both state and federal, protecting them?

      Or is it possibly that the accusations against them are political bunk, much like the Whitewater/Mena/Vince Foster/etc. accusations that were raised in the 1990s?

      It will hurt less in the end if you ask the question honestly now.

  22. Trip says:

    I wonder how much exposure Melania will have from the raid.  Did Cohen do the prenup? Perhaps he was involved in some second phase, whereby she remains with Trump for additional funds after the presidential win, and it includes a new NDA.

    Gates recently flipped. Gates was involved in the inaugural. Melania’s assistant got a big paycheck, and for what? Did Cohen finagle numbers somewhere down that line? He’s also part of the GOP finance, along with Elliott Broidy.
    Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm of First Lady’s Adviser
    The company that received the biggest payment — $26 million — was WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, Calif. Records show that the firm was created in December 2016, about six weeks before the inauguration, and its founder, according to a person familiar with the firm, was Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a longtime friend of Mrs. Trump’s. Otherwise there is very little information available about the company…Two people with direct knowledge of Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s role, who asked to remain anonymous, said she often invoked Mrs. Trump’s name with transition officials as she delivered instructions for the inauguration. But Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump, said the first lady “had no involvement” with the inaugural committee “and had no knowledge of how funds were spent.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/us/politics/trumps-inaugural-committee-paid-26-million-to-first-ladys-friend.html

    Of course these circumstances prove nothing, but they are curious, indeed. Especially since Cohen has no problem keeping the women in Trump’s life quiet.  Yes, I know, pure speculation, on my part.

  23. yogarhythms says:

    BG, checking in is a sanity ritual for me and perhaps you too. So sorry for your daughters illness. Stormy: I’ m hoping the coincidence of SDNY clean team also conveys possible state action which is beyond Palace Pardon. Bombs exploding distract attention. Bombastic distractions explode attention. This is the calm before the storm.

  24. TheraP says:

    Would the firing of Preet Bharara have left a bunch of dangling investigatory threads, some of which might also benefit from these FBI raids yesterday? Might even therefore have played a role in authorizing them?

    By the way I completely buy this idea that the raid itself *is* the taint team already in action. (In the absence of dispositive evidence, of course.) I hope I phrased that correctly.

    In the midst of the horror behind all this, it’s breathtaking to see the brilliance of the good guys! And the ineptness of the evil ones. (Was this some of the cavalry? … wink!) And credit to the good-guy thinkers here as well.

    • posaune says:

      Yes, particular credit to EW, bmaz and all here who provide the deep thinking here. This is an amazing window for all of us.   Much appreciated.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        “This is an amazing window for all of us.” No doubt about it. I wonder when Maddow is gunna start crediting EW and maybe even having her on (wouldn’t that be special).

        • Avattoir says:

          In that vein – MSM slum-dipping into the hiposphere – many reading this thread will know that the L.A. attorney bmaz likes to cite, Ken White a.k.a. Popehat, today followed in Fearless Leader’s footsteps in having an op-ed published in the NYTimes.

          But in reading it, we can all note that ALREADY White’s pieces is based (“in part”) on an assumption that TODAY we’ve learned is wrong. Trump’s personally-interviewed hire as temporary USa for the SDNY, Giuliani-based Berman, could NOT “sign off” on these searches of Mickey Cohen’s office and homes “referred” in by the OSC, because … he’d already recused beforehand!

          With that recent revelation, out the back door get tossed notions like Trump’s handpicked rats biting him, the supporting grounds for the warrant being so flat-out overwhelming that even hand-raised Trumpsters lost their lunch over it and saw their duty and done it, even Preet Bharara’s guess – which I myself bit on – that Mueller & Rosenstein struck on going thru the SDNY for this warrant ‘because’ they determined to use taint team out of the SDNY – POOF! all gone.

          Again: as to these Cohen searches, even as we all find Mickey such an appealing character for the target for the execution of fed criminal section search warrants relating to Trump and TrumpOrg and the Trump spawn, this is not merely a matter of the amount of what we do. not. know. being a LOT, it’s that some of the most insider-type and smart-take type and Occam’s Razor  type assumptions & inferences ALREADY are so easily & readily knocked down.

          It’s not like we’re in Pamplona here; and we certainly don’t NEED to run with the lemmings.

  25. Frank Probst says:

    Random thoughts/observations/questions:

    1. One of the (many) stories I read yesterday (and ONLY one story, I should point out) specifically said that what Mueller brought to Rosenstein was an informant. If that’s true (and again, it was only one story), then who was it, and what exactly did he or she have to say?

    2. Josh Marshall has said–and I agree here–that there has to be more going on here than just Stormy Daniels. While there was almost certainly some sort of crime committed there, “illegal porn star payoff” just isn’t enough to get this many people to sign off on co-ordinated searches targeting the President’s lawyer.

    3. For bmaz–If the “taint team” finds evidence of a crime that is NOT covered by privilege, but is also NOT covered by the search warrant that was used, does this evidence get buried, or is there a protocol to bright it to light.

    4. Trump’s Friday comments may well be a non-denial denial. Question #1 is “Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?” There’s weasel room here if Trump didn’t know the exact amount Daniels was paid. He could arguably say “no” if he didn’t know that the amount of the payment was $130,000. Question #2 was simply dodged. And Question #3 is “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?” Again, there’s weasel room here if Trump didn’t know SPECIFICALLY where the money came from (i.e., which account, how the money got from Point A to Point B, etc.). Yes, these would be pretty weaselly answers, but they’re arguably defensible ones. I wouldn’t want to be Trump’s lawyer when it came to trying to defend these answers, of course, but right now I wouldn’t want to be Trump’s lawyer to begin with.

    5. Michael Avenatti STARTED Monday with a strong argument to depose Trump and Cohen in the Stormy Daniels case. Presumably, he’ll be amending his argument now with some sort of statement saying, “Oh, and the FBI just raided one of the guys that I want to depose.”

    6. Lost in all of the news yesterday was Paul Manafort’s latest face-plant. The judge rejected his bail package AGAIN, meaning he STILL can’t come up with $10 million in clean assets, and he’s therefore still stuck under house arrest.

    • bmaz says:

      Item 2 is unquestionably true. It is more than just Stormy. Were Trump’s AF1 statements icing on the cake? That very well could be, we just don’t know. But there is certainly much more going on with the warrant app.

      As to Item 3, that is a complicated question. It very much depends on the scope of the warrant and crimes delineated in it. Not the supporting affidavit, but the actual warrant (which is probably only a few pages, at most) may well get leaked sooner rather than later. We’ll see. How the matter is handled vis a vis the issuing court will determine how any returns on the warrant service are utilized.

      • Domye West says:

        Can you explain why Trump’s AF1 comments about the 130k would have helped this along, or as icing on the cake? Why would Trump (probably) lying to the press have bearing on this? I don’t understand how it’s connected. Thanks.

          • Domye West says:

            I understand that, but I am unsure as to why a (probable) lie to the press has any bearing on it though. It’s not as if he is saying this to a court- cant a person be allowed to lie to the press about their lawyer, without legal repercussions? Wouldn’t Teump’s response be “my denial of my lawyers actions to the press have no actual bearing on attorney-client privilege”? What am I missing here?

            • bmaz says:

              Why wouldn’t a President’s own personal statements on the record be competent evidence? It would be absurd were it not.

        • TheraP says:

          I suspect I know the answer:

          By claiming to know nothing of the agreement that his lawyer brokered or the money paid or anything about it, this means he denies taking part and thus cannot claim attorney-client privilege around this. So his attorney opened the door by saying he did this all on his own initiative and Trump walked himself through the door, denying any part in it.

          Thus: Goal! But – in the net one should be defending. So, a point for the other team. (In soccer.)

          • Avattoir says:

            a.k.a. “own goal”

            OTOH, it’s a Brit term, so maybe we can go rebel here & call it “pwn goal”.

  26. TheraP says:

    O/T – sort of:

    Last night I kept thinking of that meeting Trump had with the generals after his disorganized “tirade” against the – apparently, to his mind, ‘treasonous or judiciously heretical’- raids on his lawyer.  I wondered how unhinged his behavior with the generals might have been/seemed to them:  A man unable to focus, probably veering off from moment to moment, venting against all and sundry, needing to be steered back again and again.  If so, I hope they discussed this afterwards.  Privately.  Vowing to maintain sanity somehow going forward.  Especially as far as international relations goes.

    Then, what happened after that, at night?  Was he alone, going crazier by the second?

    Long habit doing therapy.  You wonder what’s happening in the meanwhile.  (long ago, someone phoned in the morning, with the message: “There are footsteps in the snow.  I think they’re coming for me.”)

  27. anne says:

    I wonder if this “cracking of denial…” is exacerbated by his finding out on Fox News, instead of by his staff.
    “When I saw this, when I heard about it, that is a whole new level of unfairness.”
    The bold is my emphasis.

    • Trip says:

      Trump was informed before it hit the news. You think Cohen wouldn’t have contacted him, either directly or by proxy?

      • Avattoir says:

        And Cohen probably wasn’t the only pre-Fox source for Trump. Once the searches were underway, it seems to me that the fellow Comey called “a survivor” would think to give a too-late-breaking head’s up courtesy call to White House legal counsel.

  28. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Thanks again Marcy! The taint is pervasive, no?

    If you hear from her, give our best to Jane Hamsher. We miss her.

     

  29. biglines says:

    Preet was working on something for a long time in relation to Trump before he was let go. Given the high standard needed to raid an attorneys office in a regular case I can only imagine what it took to raid the presidents personal laywer’s office. News is reporting that they we looking for a couple things including Stormy info and taxi licence info. Taxi business is a cash one, meaning money laundering is the real target here. I would think that the case was 95% there and Muller just put it over the top

  30. punaise says:

    Taint: necessarily so
    The things for which you’re liable
    Done of course in matters tribal
    Taint: necessarily so

  31. NJRun says:

    To raid an attorney’s office, the Feds have to have evidence that the material sought would otherwise not be produced by a simple request. To me, that suggests that investigators have a witness or overheard on a wiretap on Cohen or someone close to him that he planned to destroy evidence,

  32. Dev Null says:

    Apologies if this has been posted in comments … I didn’t see it if so.

    ABC News reported that Berman recused. Subsequently USA Today reported that Rosenstein recused Berman:

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/04/10/top-ny-prosecutor-geoffrey-berman-trump-appointee-recused-michael-cohen-inquiry/502367002/

    [quote]
    Berman, named in January as an interim replacement to fill the post formerly held by Preet Bharara who Trump dismissed last year, was disqualified by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said the person who is not authorized to comment publicly.

    The source said Berman played no role in the decision to carry out the search of Cohen’s New York office and home where authorities were in part pursuing information related to an alleged hush money payment of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.
    [/quote]

    I thought (and the first and only dictionary I consulted concurs) that a “recusal” is done by the person with conflicts. Seems like this should be an “excusal”, were that a term. But as said IANAL.

      • Dev Null says:

        @Avattoir: right, I was making a wee joke putting forward “excusal”.

        I meant: I’ve always heard the term used to describe either self-actions or requests for a self-action, e.g.

        The judge was asked to recuse himself

        or

        The judge recused himself.

        I think you are (implicitly) saying that recusal can also describe disqualification of a 2rd party, as in:

        Rosenstein recused Berman.

        Correct?

        • Avattoir says:

          It wouldn’t have been Rosenstein’s ‘doing’, exercising bureaucratic power or judgment or whathaveyou: it would be an obvious outcome dictated by the DoJ manual, i.e. ‘by the book’.

  33. cwolf says:

    Is it remotely possible Operation Cohen could have been planned and executed without Sessions knowledge, acquiescence or approval?

    Seriously.

  34. david_l says:

    I mentioned this in a late comment on Marcy’s “Mueller Tells The Guy …” and I know bmaz posted a response “Good grief. Not the RICO shit again…”  along with a link to the Ken White RICO (not-so-ultimate in my view) explainer – which is mostly on why you shouldn’t include RICO charges in civil suits, about which he’s right.

    But sometimes it actually is about RICO – or certainly could and perhaps should be.

    First off, anyone who doubts Trump et al. have been engaged in a decades-long pattern of criminal activity using, among other enterprises, The Trump Organization hasn’t got a good understanding of Trump’s history or the history of The Trump Organization.

    Second, while I doubt Trump would like to have to resign, or would like to be thrown out of the presidency, or to be thrown in prison for that matter, I think he could witch-hunt and fake-news that all away.

    I think Trump is much more concerned/scared/nuts about losing his business empire or, worse, having it destroyed/dismantled because, even though he’s been “finished” before, at his age he knows there’s no way he could recover and he’d die a world renowned abject failure – probably his worst nightmare.

    Whether he calculates that being forced to leave the presidency or even going to prison would cause loss of his business empire is unclear. But fear of losing his business empire is plausibly a – perhaps even the – main motivation behind his “Red Line” and it is at least more than a little plausible that he fired Comey in part to prevent Comey from pulling at threads that Trump knew (c/w)ould ultimately result in the end of The Trump Organization if/when his and his family’s (and The Trump Organization) reliance on, and downstream use of illicit proceeds of, Russian and probably other laundered money came into the picture –  which of course now they probably will as Mueller’s “matters arising …” and why he’ll probably have Mueller fired despite the political storm that might immediately follow and will follow in January if Democrats have an especially good November.

    Whether Mueller could reasonably allege RICO-civil charge(s) against Trump and The Trump Organization qua enterprise is not clear (to us) because of the lack of an obvious (to us) injured party. But now that the DC/MD emoluments case has gained standing I can see some state Attorneys General at least having RICO-civil charge / forum shopping / partial joinder discussions.

    Here are two potential federal RICO-criminal predicate offenses, both by players in The Trump Organization:

    1. Ivanka may have violated FCPA when she helped “negotiate”, and then worked on, the Baku Azerbaijan Trump Tower deal and its implementation, from which The Trump Organization made a few million before it “withdrew”. (See The New Yorker article on this deal which lays out the deal, the background, why there may have been some FCPA violations, and where money for the Baku Trump Tower deal may have come from).

    2. Michael Cohen may have paid off Daniels (causing wire transfers to be made by sending email instructions to his banker) to reduce the chances of the uncovering of a possibly decades-long pattern of collusion with Trump to intimidate and coerce women to sign NDAs and accept some cash to protect Trump, a principal of The Trump Organization, and The Trump Organization. With Zervos and Daniels and probably others we may get to see the factors surrounding how these NDAs came into existence. (The NDA thread itself is separate from potential FEC in-kind contribution violations by Cohen specific to the Stormy Daniels NDA.)

    It would be hard to argue that 1. was not to further certain illegitimate interests of The Trump Organization and its principals and perhaps possible to argue that 2. was not, though not very convincingly because Cohen was not some random outside attorney but was Trump’s longtime inside/outside fixer and an integral part of the “team”, the principal of which he was colluding with to protect the principal and the “team” so they could keep doing their business.

    Both those potential RICO-criminal predicate offenses are good until around 2020/21 and anyway only one predicate offense of the required two needs to have been performed before its limitations clock runs out for the RICO charge to be prosecutable.

    And I am pretty sure Mueller and Schneiderman have, and will continue to uncover, scores of candidates – even things as pedestrian as tax evasion.

    And maybe it’s a stretch but acting illegally to try to win the presidency (e.g., accepting illegal in-kind contributions e.g., in the form of  Mercer-subsidized “deeply discounted” use of Cambridge Analytica software [whether helpful or not]), so as to be able to use the presidency (whether won or not) as a means to further financial and other goals of The Trump Organization qua enterprise and its principals, might itself be a RICO-criminal predicate offense.

    There are obvious and to us not so obvious political constraints Mueller et al. have to satisfy but it just isn’t plausible to me given the scope and known threads of the Mueller Investigation, and the fact of his cooperation with various state-level entities (especially Schneiderman), that RICO-criminal charges and strategies and forums involving (at least) The Trump Organization as the enterprise haven’t been “discussed”.

    I am not an attorney and maybe bmaz is right that I am misinformed and that this is “… the RICO shit again…”.

    But Ken White says in the “What sort of problems [are appropriate for RICO]?” section “You could take down some mook for one street assault, but you couldn’t take down the mook’s boss’s boss” and in Trump’s case it’s a bunch of mooks all the way up the line working with the Big Boss Mook – and that’s exactly what RICO is for.

     

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/donald-trumps-worst-deal

    https://www.facebook.com/IvankaTrump/videos/10152834834157682/

    https://www.popehat.com/2016/06/14/lawsplainer-its-not-rico-dammit/

  35. orionATL says:

    well, here’s some food for thought and speculation:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/special-counsel-has-examined-episodes-involving-michael-cohen-trumps-longtime-lawyer/2018/03/06/4a2bd064-1b37-11e8-b2d9-08e748f892c0_story.html?

    it seems mueller’s team has been looking at michael cohen for quite a while from quite a few angles.

    given, e.g., all the shady russians who have nested in trump tower, and the not-very-businesslike business deals around the world for trump branded hotels (which psuedonymous inc has described as “high level check kiting”), money laundering of some sort has got to be of interest to the osc.

    and then there’s felix sater and whatever he may know about same.

    • orionATL says:

      if you were the osc looking to hide your intent, having the media focus on and write up speculations about the president’s lawyer/stormy daniels legal material would certainly do the job for you.

    • Dev Null says:

      @orionATL: yeah, other than that recent television interview, Sater has been invisible for the past 6-odd months. Curious, since he was reported as having told associates that he expected to end up in jail. Your WaPo link connects Sater to Cohen, but then lots of Trump associates are connected to Cohen.

      EDIT after seeing your reply to yourself: if that’s the ruse, I don’t think it worked out as intended.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        “…but then lots of Trump associates are connected to Cohen.”

        And that is the point of all of this today isn’t it?

        • Dev Null says:

          @Norsk: “And that is the point of all of this today isn’t it?”

          Yes … just indulging in speculation (as we all are); in this case that Sater might have provided early evidence that eventually led to the raid on Cohen.

          • NorskieFlamethrower says:

            If you are correct in this speculation, and I sincerely hope you are, then Trumpty is as “done” as an over-cooked piece of French toast.

    • orionATL says:

      wapo’s jennifer rubin summarises a couple more episodes of trump’s ” i don’t heed no stinkin’ laws”, aka ignoring the emoluments clause. these certainly could interest the ofc, if for no other reason than that the e-clause is short, unambiguous, and written into the constitution with clear intent – no foreign bribery permitted.

      jared k’ s whitehouse shakedown schemes might be implicated in this context (as both a trump emissary and a family member).

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/04/10/more-foreign-money-scandals-for-trump/?

  36. x174 says:

    marcy–

    thanks for presenting your multi-tiered breakdown of the action against Cohen (and Trump). The initial reportage i found confusing: was it stormy motivated or collusion related, or something else?

    some of the comments from Avattoir, earlofhuntingdon and Trip–to mention the most notable–have shed some pale light onto this complex and complicating action–of raiding a sitting president’s lawyer’s property and effects.

    the irreducible confusion surrounding the latest twist in the Mueller probe seems inherently metonymic of the times

    glad that this blog exists and that there are so many curious, thoughtful and informed people willing to share their views to help parse the mayhem of this maladministration.

  37. Dev Null says:

    Not a fan of David Frum, but this works for me:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/04/midterms-impeachment/557609/

    To survive, President Trump needs more than Republican votes, more than a Republican hold on one chamber or the other. He needs active Republican complicity in his future efforts to deflect investigations, whatever they may pursue. As his legal situation deteriorates, some Republicans from marginal seats may be tempted to drift away, to let justice take its course—possibly even to say or do something if justice is obstructed. Trump needs all of them bolted down, and the surest way to bolt them down is to force all Congress members to commit themselves early and fully to his protection.

    Frum notes that if damning evidence emerges, Republicans could find themselves unable to peel off from a suicide mission, ie GOP leadership is risking the party on the non-existence (or at least non-exposure) of Trump high crimes and misdemeanors. Seems like a huge risk to take for a marginal payoff, but perhaps Rugger9 is right that the upper echelon of the GOP is complicit.

    • Dev Null says:

      Meanwhile, Politico reports that Republican senators are worried:

      https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/10/republicans-trump-fire-mueller-512329

      Republicans are mounting an urgent defense of special counsel Robert Mueller in the face of President Donald Trump’s latest attacks, with one key senator leading a renewed push to protect him and other GOP lawmakers arguing the special counsel’s report should become public when Mueller finishes his work.

      The GOP alarm was palpable on Tuesday in the wake of Trump leaving the door open to canning Mueller. Republican lawmakers are desperately trying to keep Mueller’s probe into Trump on track after the FBI raided the offices of Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, warning Trump he will end his presidency with such a move.

      Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is pressing for the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up his legislation aimed at insulating Mueller from any attempted firing. Tillis is in discussions with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) about merging two separate Mueller protection bills and then persuading Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to pass them.

      “It’s a good bill that’s going to have enduring value beyond this presidency. I think the president’s frustrated, I may be if I were in the same position,” Tillis said. “But I do think it’s a bill that’s worthy of a mark-up in Judiciary and sending it to the floor.”

      The reaction on Capitol Hill came after Trump, responding to Monday’s FBI raid of Cohen’s office, raised the specter of trying to end the special counsel investigation. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deepened the intrigue on Tuesday, when she said flatly that Trump “certainly believes he has the power to fire Mueller.”

      But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is so far unmoved. On Tuesday afternoon he reiterated his belief that Mueller will not be fired and that Congress has no obligation to do anything.

      Not sure how compelling “vote Republican or Trump gets impeached” will sound should Trump fire Mueller and install hacks at the FBI to shut down the investigation.

      True that firing Mueller could bring Trump closer to impeachment; not so clear that voters would see potential impeachment as a reason to vote Republican following Mueller’s ouster.

      It’s one thing to tie your future to the SS Trump and do everything you can to ensure that Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors aren’t exposed to sunlight; it’s a rather different thing to tie your future to the SS Trump when the captain has already run the ship onto the iceberg.

  38. texas_dem says:

    I had a fun/scary take on this last night that I couldn’t shake, and that I wanted to ask about here.   The view seems to be that SDNY is working very closely *with* Mueller on this, and lord I hope so.   But given how dramatic the raid was, and how the general public pretty much thinks now that *Mueller* is the one who is doing no-knock raids on the president’s lawyer because of Stormy Daniels… I wondered if SDNY could be working at cross-purposes to Mueller, sandbagging him in fact, making him look outrageously aggressive to the public, and creating the conditions to allow Trump to fire Mueller.  The USA in SDNY is a Trump appointee now, and the NY field office of the FBI is the one that was leaking so hard against Clinton that Comey had to release the Oct 28th letter to stay ahead of them.  It’s not 100% clear that they’d be singing from the same hymnal as Mueller.   And anytime the cops are investigating someone they *don’t* want to catch, usually another cop, isn’t it kindof a thing to play really bizarrely aggressive, start breaking rules, intimidate some witnesses, contaminate some evidence, and pretty soon nothing is admissible in court and there’s nothing left to prosecute with.  The disconnect between the crimes that SDNY is supposedly after and the aggression of the raid on Cohen left a lot of people trying to match action to antecedent.   The idea that SDNY and Mueller are after something huge, bigger than Stormy, is what Josh Marshall settled on last night, and of course I love that idea.  But the disconnect also tends to make Mueller look… let’s see, the 5:00 hour on CNN used the phrase “going rogue”, which gave my whole body chills.  If CNN anchors, not Trumpers, are describing Mueller as “going rogue”, and in particular if it looks like he’s hot pursuit of an apparent sideshow like Stormy Daniels, then the space has been created for Trump to make his move.  Not many people were picking up that Mueller didn’t do the raid, the NY office and SDNY did the raid, with the approval of a NY judge… and while that makes it kindof a high bar to think that they’re all going too big on purpose (am I supposed to think that Rosenstein is sandbagging Mueller too? And presumably himself?)… I still think the aggressiveness of SDNY makes this week probably the best opportunity Trump has ever had or will ever have to fire Mueller… and I think SDNY probably knows that.  Going that big carries a huge risk to public perception of Mueller in particular, and I don’t want to assume that Geoffrey Berman (Trump’s USA SDNY) has protecting Mueller as his highest calling.

    Lord I hope they are all working together!  But I wanted to ask the people here, who separate fact from fiction better than anyplace I know, if there was any real-world plausibility to the idea that SDNY was *not* really helping out Mueller on Monday.

    • TheraP says:

      You’re assuming rules got broken, because you’re forgetting that a Federal Judge had to be convinced by evidence and the following of DOJ/FBI rules, all of which are very clear and very strict when raid upon a client’s attorney are being sought, in order to issue the warrants to do the raids. You’re also forgetting that the recently Trump-appointed Federal Attorney (Bergman) recused himself (via the rules) in supervising this very FBI action.

      So your theory or worry that these raids are somehow undercutting Mueller’s investigation seems unsupported by any evidence you’ve put forward.  The only thing you’ve mustered is to say that cops would neglect to investigate cops.  But an analogy or supposition is not evidence, at least to me.

      Ok, maybe some people are misunderstanding – due to propaganda or media hype (indeed also coming from the mouth of Trump himself) – but that doesn’t (necessarily) mean that the propaganda blizzard or media hype is correct.  (One of the things I love about this blog, actually, is the lack of hype or inducement of anxiety in readers, but rather the calm voice of reason, barring bmaz on occasional troll patrol, the thinking through of ideas, theories, hypotheses.  People working together to try and understand.  It’s very calming actually.  In addition to stimulating and insightful.)

      So I strongly suggest you read this whole thread of comments, which may allay some of the fears you’ve expressed here.  Plus, check back below in case I’m off base on any of what I’ve written, because I assure you, somebody will set me straight.  Or tweak things if that’s needed.

      Meanwhile, try to stay calm.  We’re in a very fraught situation as a nation, as a Republic.  Trump is in a particularly fraught situation, as his legal problems mount; plus he’s barely able to keep it together for the cameras, it would seem (possibly a reason his SA trip is cancelled?)

      But the FBI does not seem to be at war with itself – as you fear.

    • matt says:

      @texas_dem, I have to admit the same thought process crossed my mind.  Something BIG is going down with the Mueller investigation and/or war with Syria.  How the Cohen FBI raid fits in will likely become more apparent as events unfold… but there is a lot we don’t know, and a lot that could happen in the next 48 hours.

    • Rayne says:

      I would love to know which CNN talking head used the phrase “going rogue” with regard to Mueller. This is the same cable network that hired Corey Lewandowski and didn’t do much to remind their audience about his conflict of interest as he covered Trump’s campaign.

      As for the appearance of aggressiveness on the part of DOJ in conducting the searches on Cohen’s office/hotel room/residence: something must have legitimately tripped concerns about destruction of evidence. And while sign off from Rosentein and a secondary likely happened before the weekend, Sunday’s 50th floor fire emphasizes the risk of loss. Call it conspiracy theory, but Cohen had purchased multiple Trump units at one point; it’s not clear he (or an LLC under his control) doesn’t own a Trump Tower unit, and we don’t know the full extent of the damage to the building. This AP photo shows the fire caused damage to more than one floor. I’d be worried this fire was inspirational, at a minimum.

      By the way, welcome to Emptywheel.

      • posaune says:

        I read (just NY Post, I think — the NYT real estate bunch would never ever look into this) that Trump Tower still has a temporary C of O.  I’m wondering if it applies to a retail/commercial conversion of a condo unit OR if it applies to the entire building.  Typically, those apply to the entire building.    But why a temporary C of O?   Highly unusual.   There are also outstanding building violations prior to the fire — no surprise there.   We’ll see what comes of this.
        Btw, which floors do the secret service rent?

      • TheraP says:

        As for “risk of loss” what about all those papers shredded (for days) in Panama? That was not due to Cohen, so far as we know. Or do we know?

        In any case, the fire. Plus I’ve wondered how long Cohen’s apartment was being renovated? When did that start? Were papers moved there? Did they walk off? Was there a potential for papers stored there to be “disappeared” – with a claim that, “Gee… it must have happened when the workmen were moving boxes.”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The workmen all live in Brighton Beach, non, a place with lots of storage facilities.

  39. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    “…perhaps Rugger9 is right that the upper echelon of the GOP is complicit.” Ah well…ya THINK??!!  Remember Paul Ryan telling his number two to keep his mouth shut about Russian ownership of a California congress critter and for the caucus to play “hear no evil”, and he did it on video. For all that should be holy, how can anyone who has been in this country for the last  year not understand that??!!!

    • Dev Null says:

      @Norskie: “Ah well…ya THINK??!!”

      As said elsewhere, my opinions and $3.45 will get you a medium latte at Starbucks etc, but since you ask: yes, I do so think. The question in my mind is how deep the rot goes, not whether rot exists.

      But as Trip and Avattoir and others say, we’re all speculating. I think it’s a tactical error to assert that McTurtle and the ZEGS are on the take from Russia unless&until there’s direct evidence, notwithstanding Russian contributions to the ZEGS’s SuperPAC and McTurtle’s refusal to go public with Obama on Russian interference in October 2016.

  40. Dev Null says:

    @Texas_Dem: Berman recused (or whatever verb construction applies); and given the number of hoops required to raid an atty, SDNY sandbagging Mueller seems rather unlikely (ahem, to this non-lawyer).

    (My legal opinion and $3.45 will get you a medium latte at Starbucks … unless they’ve raised the price since I last stopped by.)

  41. Avattoir says:

    Cohen, today after the searches, acting consistent with someone who thinks at least the worst evidence was already consigned to sleep with the fishes.

    Like in the scene in Catch 22 where Aarfy Aardvaark raped & murdered a girl, then calmly, rationally – as well as accurately – forecasts to Yossarian his effective immunity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRzv0viXy-8

  42. JClarkATL says:

    Marcy, is it at all conceivable that Mueller is getting information from the Russian hackers who are now in U.S. custody and that part of that information detailed how the hackers were paid? From Wikipedia’s description of the Steele Dossier, Cohen traveled to Prague specifically to arrange payment to the Russian hackers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trump%E2%80%93Russia_dossier):

    That Cohen secretly met with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016,[71][42][95] where he arranged “deniable cash payments” to the hackers and sought “to cover up all traces of the hacking operation”,[41][22] as well as “cover up ties between Trump and Russia, including Manafort’s involvement in Ukraine”.[3] (Dossier, pp. 18, 34-35)

    I’m not arguing that the dossier is anywhere near 100% true, but if this part of it is and if one of the hackers has provided Mueller with bank names and account numbers or crypto-transaction numbers or some other kind of proof of payment from Cohen, Mueller would be able to provide the court with exactly what documents and bank records he is looking for and likely even provide dates. I read somewhere that the warrant was fairly specific on which documents and bank records Mueller was looking for (sorry, no link, but I might can find it if anyone is interested) and something like this would explain the client-lawyer exception.

    As for Mueller handing off the warrant to SDNY, my theory would clearly suggest that it falls into the heart of his team’s investigation but like other commentators have written, there can be no room for error here and Mueller and Rosenstein are possibly erring on the side of extreme caution.

    Something big is going on here and while I’m sure hush money payouts are involved, that just doesn’t seem big enough to justify these searches. Am I nuts?

  43. tryggth says:

    Has Rosenstein become confident Trump will be impeached?:”You come at the king, you best not miss” is good advice.

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