The FBI’s raid today of Michael Cohen’s office and residence was a big enough deal on its face that it’s sent shockwaves across the landscape. Cohen is arguably closer to Donald Trump than anyone outside of Trump’s own family, meaning that the Feds are now striking at the heart of Trump’s financial crimes. But upon closer inspection, the whole thing turns out to be even worse for Trump than you’d think.
It’s rare for the Feds to execute a search warrant for documents without bothering to subpoena them first. It’s extraordinarily rare for the Feds to take this kind of action against a criminal subject’s attorney. The real upshot here is that a federal judge signed off on this kind of search warrant against Trump’s attorney. That alone means that the judge believes Cohen was in possession of documents of a crime that involved Trump.
In other words, this isn’t merely the Feds raiding Michael Cohen to gather evidence against him in the hope of pressuring him into cutting a plea deal against Trump, though that’s part of it. This was an attempt at gathering physical evidence of Trump’s guilt. And again, this wasn’t just a stab in the dark or a fishing expedition, because a judge had to be convinced that the resulting evidence was likely to justify the extraordinary step of raiding Trump’s attorney.
There’s one other crucial factor here. Even if Michael Cohen’s Office contained documents that showed Donald Trump committed a crime, it still wouldn’t be admissible as evidence due to attorney-client privilege. So this means the judge believed evidence would be found that Trump and Cohen conspired to commit a crime together, which is the only instance in which attorney-client privilege is forfeited. We don’t know what evidence was or was not found today, and only a jury can decide guilt, but we’re now in a whole new ballgame.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report