Federal agents raided the office of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen on Monday, seizing records related to a $130,000 payment made to a porn actress who says she had sex with Trump more than a decade ago.
The raid on Mr. Cohen’s office was done by the U.S. Attorney’s office out of Manhattan and was reportedly based on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller.
This latest development is the clearest indication yet that Trump and those in his inner circle are in legal jeopardy. As Michael Cohen has been the president’s personal lawyer for many years, if he were to face prison time, he would be under enormous pressure to cut a deal with Mueller and give testimony against Trump.
Here’s the scoop per Politico:
Monday’s FBI raids on Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel room are the clearest sign yet that the president’s longtime attorney is in serious legal jeopardy. They also represent yet another threatening development facing Donald Trump after more than a year of investigations into his campaign and presidency—perhaps the most direct danger yet.
The evidence sought by investigators reportedly relates to bank fraud and campaign finance violations, both of which primarily point to one thing. Cohen apparently used a home equity credit line to borrow the $130,000 he paid Stormy Daniels for her silence just weeks before the 2016 election. If Cohen lied to obtain credit from a federally insured financial institution, that is a felony punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment. And because the payment was likely an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign, it could constitute a willful violation of campaign contribution limits, a separate felony punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
That the investigation of Cohen was apparently referred by special counsel Robert Mueller to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York—a Trump appointee—is an early indication that at this point, the matter is not directly related to the Russia investigation. But that doesn’t mean Trump’s exposure is any less serious. Cohen knows where the LLCs are hidden. He’s been at the center of Trump’s financial universe for decades. If he is as exposed as he seems on the Daniels payment, one wonders what information he might be able to offer prosecutors—including Mueller—in exchange for a deal.
In addition, while the guilty pleas of Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, deputy campaign chair Rick Gates, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn were all significant, none of them directly jeopardized the president the way a Cohen deal would. If the FBI seized evidence showing that Trump directed Cohen’s payment to Daniels, Trump may also have committed a felony violation of campaign finance law. If Cohen and Trump worked together to come up with the scheme, they might also both be guilty of conspiring to commit a campaign finance violation. And if Trump (notwithstanding his recent denial) actually knew that he was the beneficiary of the nondisclosure agreement, he might be guilty of a separate offense—failing to report that asset on his personal financial disclosure form.
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