Close associates of President Trump’s are worried recordings made by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, were seized in raids on his offices earlier this week. FBI agents raided space Mr. Cohen uses in the offices of another law firm located in Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, as well as in a hotel room where Cohen is staying while his apartment is being renovated on Monday.
The raids were connected, at least in part, to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election according to Mr. Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan.
Cohen has become a person of interest in Mueller’s investigation in recent months after revelations he made a $130,000 payment to an adult film actress in order to keep her from speaking out about an affair she had with President Trump in 2006. Investigators are looking into whether the payment violated Federal Election Commission laws.
It has since been revealed that investigators were looking for any and all communications between Cohen and the Trump campaign about suppressing “potential sources of negative publicity” for the President in the waning weeks and months of the 2016 election.
Cohen has filed a motion to prevent authorities from using any materials confiscated during the raids. A hearing is scheduled for today in New York.
While it isn’t clear whether Cohen recorded conversations with Donald Trump, it was widely known that he recorded conversations with other members of the Trump campaign. A source close to Cohen said it was standard practice for him to record conversations and let it be known that he had done so in a bid to gain leverage over the other party.
In New York, only one party in a phone conversation needs to consent to having a conversation recorded.
But even if recordings between Cohen and the President exist and were seized by authorities their admissibility is not guaranteed. It would first need to be determined whether their use would violate attorney-client privilege. That determination would need to be made by officials in the Justice Department and likely, a federal judge.
Experts are quick to point out however that attorney-client privilege cannot be invoked in order to protect the commission or cover-up of a crime.
Neither Cohen nor Ryan provided comment on the recordings issue.
The President was infuriated at the news of the raids on Cohen’s offices. Speaking before a meeting with his national security team on a possible retaliation to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian dictator Bahsar Assad against his own people, the president called the raids a “disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country in a true sense,” earlier this week.
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