Raids on Trump’s Lawyer Sought Records of Payments to Women
WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. agents who raided the workplace of President Trump’s individual lawyer on Monday were seeking for records about payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump as nicely as info associated to the part of the publisher of The National Enquirer in silencing one particular of the girls, according to many people briefed on the investigation.
The search warrant carried out by the public corruption unit of the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan sought info about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she carried on a almost yearlong affair with Mr. Trump shortly right after the birth of his youngest son in 2006. Ms. McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., The Enquirer’s parent business, whose chief executive is a friend of Mr. Trump’s.
Agents were also browsing the workplace and hotel space of the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, for data connected to Stephanie Clifford, better recognized as Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress, who also said she had sex with Mr. Trump even though he was married. Mr. Cohen has acknowledged that he paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to safe her silence days before the 2016 presidential election.
The president, who reacted to news of the raids on Monday by lashing out at his leading law enforcement officials, described the investigations in a Twitter post on Tuesday as “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” and later declined to respond to reporters’ queries. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, refused to say that Mr. Trump retains self-confidence in his lawyer general, deputy attorney general or F.B.I. director. She also said that Mr. Trump “believes he has the power” to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the particular counsel in the Russia inquiry, a position directly contradicted by federal regulations.
Stephen Ryan, Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, stated that it was Mr. Mueller who referred evidence to the federal authorities in New York who carried out Monday’s raids. In an e-mail on Tuesday, Mr. Ryan repeated his assertion that the raids were “inappropriate and unnecessary.”
Mr. Trump has been dogged for months by accusations that girls with whom he is mentioned to have had affairs were paid to preserve quiet prior to the election — charges that the White Property has repeatedly stated he denies.
Ms. McDougal has claimed that she had a ten-month consensual affair with Mr. Trump 12 years ago. American Media, which is owned by David J. Pecker, agreed to spend Ms. McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story in August 2016, but did not publish it in a practice known as catch and kill. Ms. Clifford, who told her story about an affair with Mr. Trump to CBS’s “60 Minutes” final month, is aggressively challenging the nondisclosure agreement she agreed to in October 2016, getting $130,000 in return.
It is unclear specifically why the New York investigators are examining the payments. But critics of the president have claimed that they amount to illegal campaign contributions due to the fact they helped Mr. Trump win the White Residence by suppressing politically damaging stories.
The F.B.I. also searched for records connected to Mr. Cohen’s New York taxicab enterprise, apparently a separate line of inquiry unrelated to Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen is a longtime owner of taxi medallions, at one particular point operating a fleet of more than 200 cabs in Manhattan.
In addition to enraging Mr. Trump, the early-morning searches, associates said, also led him to privately wonder whether he ought to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the veteran prosecutor appointed by Mr. Trump to serve as deputy lawyer general. Mr. Rosenstein personally signed off on Monday’s F.B.I. choice to raid the office of Mr. Cohen, numerous government officials mentioned.
Justice Division regulations call for prosecutors to seek advice from with senior officials in Washington, but not necessarily the deputy attorney basic, ahead of conducting a search of a lawyer’s files, which is amongst the most delicate actions federal prosecutors can take in an investigation.
Mr. Trump has lengthy been mistrustful of Mr. Rosenstein, who appointed Mr. Mueller, and now oversees his investigation. In his remarks on Monday evening, the president lashed out at Mr. Rosenstein for getting “signed a FISA warrant,” apparently a reference to the function Mr. Rosenstein played in authorizing the wiretap of a Trump associate in the Russia inquiry.
Mr. Trump regarded firing Mr. Rosenstein final summer time. As an alternative, he ordered Mr. Mueller to be fired, then backed down following the White House counsel refused to carry out the order, The New York Instances reported in January.
As Mr. Trump has stewed more than the developments, he has cast blame in many directions. Privately, men and women close to the president said, he has blamed Mr. Cohen for acknowledging the payments to Ms. Clifford.
On Monday evening, Mr. Trump known as the court-authorized raids an “attack on our country” — unusually harsh language that he has not used to describe Russia’s attempts to influence an American election via hacking and propaganda — and the raids are likely to complicate Mr. Trump’s negotiations with Mr. Mueller over the terms of a feasible interview.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have warned that such an interview would be extremely risky, but Mr. Trump had been confident in his capability and was eager to sit for one particular. Men and women close to the president said the raids could alter that pondering.
The president’s reaction has deeply unsettled aides, present and former Justice Division officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may possibly use the raids as a pretext to purge the team top the Russia investigation.
“Now is the time for officials in the executive branch and Congress who care about the rule of law to counsel against any effort to undermine the specific counsel’s work,” mentioned David Laufman, a former prime Justice Division official who oversaw the Russia investigation before Mr. Mueller’s appointment.
Mr. Trump’s advisers have spent the previous 24 hours attempting to persuade the president not to make an impulsive selection that could place him in much more legal jeopardy, a number of folks close to Mr. Trump stated. In one particular of his Tuesday morning tweets, he vented that “attorney-client privilege is dead!”
Adding to the concern amongst Mr. Trump’s aides about his mood is the release next week of a book by James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, which is expected to be sharply essential of the president.
The involvement of Mr. Rosenstein and prime prosecutors in New York in the raids of Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room tends to make it tougher for Mr. Trump to argue that his legal troubles are the outcome of a witch hunt led by Mr. Mueller. In addition to Mr. Rosenstein, all of the best law enforcement officials involved in the raids are Republicans, like Mr. Mueller and Christopher A. Wray, Mr. Trump’s option to succeed Mr. Comey as director of the F.B.I.
Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney for Southern District of New York, which oversaw the raids, has been recused from the case, according to a single particular person with information with the matter. The precise purpose was not clear, but beneath Justice Department recommendations, a United States lawyer should report any concern that could need recusal “as a outcome of an actual or apparent conflict of interest.”
Mr. Berman, who worked as a volunteer lawyer on Mr. Trump’s campaign, was the option of Donald F. McGahn II, the White Property counsel, to be the United States attorney in New York, according to a individual with direct information of the appointment.
Although Mr. Trump is focused for the moment on Mr. Rosenstein, a lot of of the president’s advisers and allies are fearful that the president also intends to fire Mr. Mueller in an try to end the Russia investigation. Asked by reporters on Monday evening whether he intends to do so, Mr. Trump said, “We’ll see what occurs.”
Despite Tuesday’s assertions by Ms. Sanders, several legal specialists believe the president can not fire Mr. Mueller himself, and would have to direct Mr. Rosenstein to do so. Mr. Rosenstein has told Congress that he would dismiss Mr. Mueller only for result in, and folks close to Mr. Rosenstein have indicated that he would resign if he have been ordered to fire Mr. Mueller by the president.
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to safeguard Mr. Mueller, with senators urging Mr. Trump to let the inquiry go forward “without impediment.” Republican leadership has dismissed such legislation as unnecessary.
The prospect that Mr. Trump might nevertheless find a way to fire Mr. Mueller elicited angry responses from Congressional Democrats and some Republicans, who warned that such a move would be disastrous for the White House.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, mentioned Tuesday on Fox Enterprise Network that “it would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller.”
On Monday, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Residence Democratic leader, known as Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Mueller and his team a “grave reminder of his utter contempt for the rule of law.” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate’s leading Democrat, urged the president: “Don’t do it, do not go down this path. For the sake of our country, we plead with you.”
An earlier version of this write-up misstated the day on which Michael D. Cohen posted a message on Twitter quoting an author. It was Sunday, not Tuesday.
Published at Wed, 11 Apr 2018 00:41:46 +0000