FBI raid of Trump’s personal lawyer’s office

A high development in the US with the FBI raiding the home and office of Michael Cohen, a lawyer closely associated with Donald Trump. This doesn’t mean Trump has been found to have done anything wrong, but it looks a more serious situation for Cohen.

Reuters: FBI raids offices, home of Trump’s personal lawyer

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday raided the offices and home of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, law enforcement sources said, in a dramatic new development in a series of probes involving close Trump associates.

Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan, said that U.S. prosecutors conducted a search that was partly a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.

Mueller is investigating whether members of Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia during the U.S. presidential election. Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt” and denied any collusion.

The raid could increase legal pressure on the president, because it involves the records of his longtime attorney and indicates a second center of investigations in Manhattan, alongside Mueller’s Washington-based probe.

Cohen has been at the center of a controversy over a $130,000 payment he has admitted making shortly before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, who has said that she had sex once with Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it.

Trump reacted with unusually harsh language to news of the raid.

“It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time,” Trump said.

Former federal prosecutor @renato_mariotti tweeted:

This is the most important paragraph of today’s article about the search warrant of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office.

Every search warrant has a list of “items to be seized,” and a warrant for a lawyer’s office has to be carefully written. Communications between Trump and Cohen were within the narrow categories of documents listed in the “items to be seized.”

That suggests that the communications between Trump and Cohen related in some way to the federal crime for which Cohen is under investigation. A “taint team” will review these communications to determine which are privileged.

That means that Cohen is under investigation and that there is substantial evidence that evidence of a crime was at his office. It also means that federal prosecutors believed that they could not obtain the same records via subpoena. That’s unusual and interesting.

The United States Attorneys’ Manual (DOJ’s guidelines for federal prosecutors) disfavors search warrants of attorneys’ offices. Section 9-13.420 states that “prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach” and should consider subpoenas instead of a warrant.

Section 13.420 requires authorization by the United States Attorney or Assistant Attorney General, consultation with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, a search warrant that is as narrow and specific as possible, and procedures to safeguard privileged materials.

The reason that searches of attorney offices are disfavored is because they can be abused by prosecutors who want to intimidate defense counsel or obtain privileged information. That is why all of those safeguards exist, and the fact that they were overcome tells us something.

The fact that federal prosecutors obtained a search warrant tells us that they believed that they would not obtain the same records if they used a subpoena. That’s not only what 9-13.420 requires, but it’s also common sense–the prosecutors had an incentive to use a subpoena.

Cohen is an attorney who has his own lawyer. If the prosecutors used a subpoena, Cohen’s attorney would be obligated to go through all the documents and materials himself and produce only what’s relevant to the prosecutors. He would be responsible for organizing them as well.

Instead, prosecutors and FBI agents decided to take upon themselves the hefty task of seizing these documents, setting up complicated procedures to weed out privileged materials, and organize and digitize the documents. They wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t have to.

This suggests that they have some information about Cohen that suggests that he would destroy evidence, hide evidence, or otherwise deceive the prosecution team. So what does this mean for Trump? It’s an issue for him for at least two reasons.

First, his relationship with Cohen appears to go beyond a typical lawyer-client relationship, by Cohen’s own description. Communications between Cohen and Trump would be reviewed by a “taint team” that is separate and walled off from the investigators.

If the taint team found communications between Trump and Cohen that were not privileged, those communications could be used in the investigation. An example would be communications that are completely unrelated to legal advice, or communications furthering an ongoing crime.

Second, Trump should be concerned because Cohen appears to have significant potential criminal liability. He could potentially cooperate against Trump, although he appears unlikely to do so. Trump could pardon Cohen for any federal offense, but he cannot pardon state crimes.

Most importantly, because the search warrant was required to be “drawn as specifically as possible,” the fact that the FBI seized Trump’s communications with Cohen suggests that the FBI believed that those communications may provide evidence in their criminal investigation.

That should worry Trump. It doesn’t necessarily mean that investigators believe Trump committed a crime, but it suggests that they believe that his communications would have potentially contained useful evidence. He was, at least, in close proximity of a crime.

One question that is raised by this news that we cannot answer is why Mueller chose to refer this case to Manhattan prosecutors instead of handling it himself. Perhaps we will learn more in the days to come that could shed light on his decision.

 

McCully’s office vandalised

RNZ report that Murray McCully’s office has been graffiti’d:  Foreign Minister’s electorate office vandalised

mccullyoffice

Petty vandalism like this doesn’t do anything for the wall scribble or their case.

It’s pathetic calling McCully a traitor, and ‘jew hater’ is nothing more than ignorant abuse.

Electorate office firebombed

Those talking up a violent reaction to the TPPA signing may or may not have influenced this, but the firebombing of Anne Tolley’s electorate office is a concern.

Newstalk ZB: Anne Tolley’s office firebombed and tagged

National MP Anne Tolley’s electorate office in Whakatane has been the subject of a firebomb attack.

It’s understood a missile was thrown at the office on The Strand overnight.

The building has been cordoned off while police and fire officers investigate.

There is minor smoke damage, along with graffiti.

1XX reporter Georgia May said there have been some tensions in recent days over the signing of the TPPA.

The protests in Auckland were relatively trouble free considering the scale, and the major organisers seemed to try hard to avoid any violence.

But protests tend to attract opportunists who want to wreak havoc.

One enthusiastic activist tweeted from yesterday’s protest:

I’m constantly torn between loving mass social action and hating the sort of men who come alive in mass social actions

Some of the worst of the student riots in Dunedin often involved outsiders who used the scarfy drinkfests as an excuse to go stupid and do damage.

The TPPA protests risked precipitating something more insidious than most wanted but a small number suggested and encouraged.

Should Key treat office of PM with more respect?

A Herald editorial says that Prime Minister John key should treat his office with more respect. They say that things like candid admissions in a recent radio interview robs the office of dignity.

Editorial: Too much information robs office of dignity

How does John Key get away with these things? To expose himself on radio to personal questions to which he can answer only yes or no is bound to endanger the dignity of his office. Thanks to an appearance on Hauraki’s breakfast programme, we now know our Prime Minister has, among other things, stolen something and peed in a shower.

Though that is more than we want to know, it is less than we might learn.

Certainly Key’s answers were more than we need to know, and more than some want to know.

Should Key be candid about personal things? Or should he shut himself off on a Prime Ministerial pedestal? Would that gibe the media more chance of knocking him off it?

To me some of what Key has said and done is not a good look for anyone let alone Prime Minister, especially the pony tail pulling.

But should be have to hide away his personal; character while he’s Prime Minister?

He did not seem at all embarrassed this week when the radio segment was screened on American television’s popular satirical programme Last Week Tonight.

So what’s the problem? Does it diminish his ability to be a respectable Prime Minister?

Those who like him and vote for him will like him all the more for the enjoyment he clearly derives from the lighter side of his job.

It’s a key part of his image, cultivated for political purposes but also obviously revealing a bit of how he is as a person.

Those with no time for him will be disgusted at what he has admitted and think it no part of his job to be answering questions such as these.

But I’ve seen those who have no time for him disgusted at things he does as Prime Minister as a part of his job, like promote policies that he believes in. Like flag referendums.

He is candid to a fault. He holds our highest elected office and he should treat it with more respect.

Or should media respect his right to be himself sometimes, even in front of the media?

Office invasion, forced removal of occupants

This is both bizarre and disturbing. Stuff reported:

Footage emerges of activists dragging out office employees

Video footage has emerged of the takeover of an Auckland office by a group of activists, in an apparent land claim.

On Monday a group of men stormed the office of the owners of Auckland’s City Works Depot, dragging staff out and barricading themselves inside.

The footage was uploaded to activist John Wanoa’s You Tube channel and shows force being used on the staff being pushed out.

In the video a group of men, wearing shirts saying federal marshal, storm the building.

They tell employees of Tournament Group: “You gotta move…assisted or non-assisted, it’s up to you guys”.

A staff member who wouldn’t move is violently handled by the men as he says “leave me alone” and is dragged from his chair.

Wanoa said he was exercising his right as a “surrogate king” and had hired “UN contracted marshals” to help with the eviction.

He said he acted legally, informing  Auckland police he was going to occupy the premises and the police respected him as a sheriff.

A police spokeswoman said investigations were on-going.

“Police are continuing their investigations into this incident and are following several positive lines of inquiry in relation to identifying and locating those involved,” she said.

Wanoa seems more then a bit odd. Crazy might be closer to the mark.

TVNZ reported further:

Hired activists drag Auckland office workers from chairs, force them outside

One man was arrested and others trespassed after a group of uniformed men stormed the Tournament Parking office at City Works Depot – a business complex on Cook Street – on Monday afternoon.Police confirmed one man associated with the group was arrested in the carpark after he refused to give his details to police.

Trespass notices were served to some of those present and police are currently trying to locate the other people involved.

And it gets odder:

@Jess_McAllen

eek

WanoaOfficeInvasion

Crazy. But also dangerous, stunts like that could easily get out of hand. I hope the police take strong follow up action.

Disturbing attack on Harawira’s office

Hone Harawira’s electorate office in Kaitaia has had shots fired at it. MSN News reports:

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says shots have been fired through the window of his Kaitaia office.
“I get threatened with violence and I get death threats but when somebody starts taking shots at my office than that’s another matter altogether,” he said.

“It’s life-threatening and I hope the police catch the perpetrators soon.”

“Politics can be a tough game and you can get hardened against some of the nasty and mean-spirited attacks against you,” he said on Tuesday night.

“But shooting into an office without knowing who might be inside is more than scary.”

Stuff also reported this but it was the third item in their Today in Politics:

The main street office was reportedly peppered with bullet holes which a spokesperson for Harawira said were thought to have been caused by shots fired from an air rifle.

Harawira told 3 News he was not sure when office was targeted and said he was worried about the safety of his staff.

Oddly I can’t find this on the 3 News website.

If an (alleged) attack like this happened to an office of John Key or David Cunliffe it’s hard to imagine so little media attention on it.

Harawira is right, politics can be mean spirited and nasty. He has a history of being abusive and provocative. In 2009 he said Phil Goff “and his mates should be lined up against a wall and shot” – see ‘Goff should be shot’ – Harawira’s latest gaffe

But regardless of Harawira’s past the actual firing of shots like this is very disturbing.

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