The FBI raided the Manhattan office of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Monday—seizing documents relating to his $130,000 payout to porn actress Stormy Daniels just days before the election.
The feds confiscated records relating to several subjects, though the roundup doesn’t appear to be directly related to Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling with the 2016 election, according to the Times.
The seizure included emails, tax documents and business records, and communications between Trump and Cohen, the Times reported.
Earlier on Monday, Daniels’ attorney filed court papers opposing Team Trump’s motion to compel arbitration after the adult actress sued to break her NDA and speak about her alleged affair with Trump. On Sunday, Daniels—born Stephanie Clifford—renewed her request to depose both Trump and Cohen in the case.
For his part, Mueller has reportedly been chasing down witnesses on Cohen since at least last month. Cohen was allegedly involved in negotiations to help the Trump Organization build a tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign.
Cohen has also been also eyed for allegedly receiving a peace proposal for Ukraine a week after Trump took office, The Washington Post reported.
Now Cohen could be investigated for allegedly making an illegal contribution to Trump’s 2016 campaign in the form of the $130,000 payout to Daniels—a possibility that was raised during the porn star’s 60 Minutes interview.
Last week, Trump addressed Daniels for the first time and denied he knew of the payment. Asked why Cohen paid Daniels in the first place, Trump replied, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
Trump ignored a reporter who asked if he set up a fund for Cohen’s hush money.
Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan, called the raid “completely inappropriate and unnecessary” in a statement posted on his website. The search warrants were executed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
“It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients,” Ryan said. “These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
Ryan did not return messages left by The Daily Beast.
But Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti—who has made a sport of challenging Cohen and Trump in the courtroom and the press—says the revelation does not bode well for the president and his loyal “fixer.”
In a statement emailed to The Daily Beast, Avenatti claimed that Trump has made Cohen the fall guy for his alleged misconduct.
“As I predicted last week on CNN and MSNBC, Mr. Cohen has been placed in the crosshairs by Mr. Trump,” Avenatti said. “He has been set-up to take the fall.
“An enormous amount of misplaced faith has been placed on his shoulders and I do not believe he has the mettle to withstand it,” the attorney added. “If I am correct, this could end very, very badly for Mr. Trump and others.”
During Daniels’ 60 Minutes interview last month, a former Federal Election Commission official said Cohen’s hush money appeared to be an illegal contribution.
Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman who now heads the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said Cohen’s $130,000 payout appears to be “a coordinated, illegal, in-kind contribution by Cohen for the purpose of influencing the election, of benefiting the candidate by keeping this secret.”
Potter hinted that Cohen’s dealings could be of interest to Mueller, too.
“[Cohen] was involved indisputably with Trump Organization activities with Russia and negotiations with the Russians,” Potter told 60 Minutes. “Mr. Cohen is in the middle of a place that’s of great interest to the special counsel.”