A US prosecutor on Friday attacked a claim by President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen that numerous materials seized this week in FBI raids on Cohen's office and home as part of a criminal investigation should remain private. Even though the investigation into Cohen is not being overseen by Mueller, sources tell CBS News the president is angry about the raids and less inclined to agree to an interview at this time.
The Associated Press reported that the raid was also to search for information about a $150,000 payment by the National Enquirer to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleges an affair with Trump, which he denies took place.
McKay, the assistant US attorney, told the judge that he believed the proceedings were an attempt to delay the processing of seized material.
A warrant requires high-level approval within the Justice Department, and agency guidelines impose additional hurdles when the search target is an attorney.
The raids enraged Trump, who called them an "attack on the country".
If there's anybody who knows a lot about Trump's legal and business orbit, it's his personal lawyer, known for acting more in the capacity as a fixer, dealmaker and media attack dog for Trump than as legal counsel.
On Monday, the president said that he had heard that the Federal Bureau of Investigation "broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys".
Attorney-client privilege allows clients to discuss their legal troubles with lawyers, protecting them from being incriminated by said correspondence.
Attorney-client protections do not apply to conversations that further a crime or act of fraud, Reuters notes.
Whether Cohen was recording conversations in his Trump Tower office was a source of concern to some Trump associates during the campaign, two former Trump campaign officials said.
Trump attorney Joanna Hendon told the judge that the president has "an acute interest in these proceedings and the manner in which these materials are reviewed". "So they considered the privilege issues, but considered them to be outweighed by the necessity to obtain evidence that couldn't be obtained otherwise".
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Trump has openly considered replacing Mueller with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general leading the Russian Federation investigation, because the team is closer to figuring out his role in the investigation. Some reports, including one from Vanity Fair, speculated that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be trying to flip Cohen to testify against Trump, but there have been no reports indicating that is the case.
But Mueller did have a hand in instigating the raids.
In a footnote, prosecutors wrote that although the investigation was referred to prosecutors by Mueller, it was proceeding independently.
Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller must consult with Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate.
Regardless, his loyal attorney's comments must have been quite a blow to the president, as he refused to go along with Trump's description of the raid.
According to the Washington Post, investigators are examining whether Mr. Cohen may have violated campaign-finance laws or statutes against bank fraud.
Among other items seized from Cohen were tax records, business documents, and electronic devices, according to the Times, who cited a person briefed on the search. Cohen also made the $130,000 payoff to the porn actress Stormy Daniels, ahead of the 2016 election, which she claims was meant to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. Some senators fear doing so could lead to a constitutional crisis.
Cohen has acknowledged that he paid Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her promise not to talk publicly about an affair she said she had with Trump.
The judge also heard from a new lawyer for Trump, Joanna Hendon, who said the president had "an acute interest" in the case.
Cohen "would be as damaging a witness against Donald Trump as any witness Mueller could secure".