In the midst of worrying about North Korea, Syria and Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives this fall, President Donald Trump is now worrying about a government assault on his own business, which targeted his own lawyer.
Michael Cohen has been the personal lawyer for Trump and for the Trump Organization — the umbrella corporation through which Trump owns or manages nearly all entities that bear his name — for many years. Cohen is so closely connected to the Trump Organization that one of his two law offices is located on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, just a few doors from the corner office formerly occupied by Trump himself.
On Monday, shortly before dawn, a team of FBI agents bearing a search warrant from a federal judge broke in to the offices of the Trump Organization and removed computers, files, tax returns and telephones from Cohen's office. At about the same time, three other teams of FBI agents performed raids. One was at another of Cohen's offices a few blocks away, and his vacant New York City apartment and hotel rooms he had been occupying were searched, too; and agents also seized personal and professional files and equipment from those venues.
Did the FBI lawfully break in to the headquarters of the president's family business and cart away files and equipment from his lawyer, as well as legal and financial files of the president himself? The short answer is: yes.
Here is the back story.
In October 2016, when the federal government began its investigation of alleged attempts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch managed the work.
After Trump became president and Jeff Sessions became attorney general and Sessions recused himself from this investigation, the No. 2 person in the Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation. The investigation in Washington is 18 months old and has been run by Mueller for about 11 months.
If a criminal investigation stumbles upon evidence of crimes substantially removed by geography or subject matter from the location and principal responsibilities of the investigation, it is the prosecutors' duty either to prosecute those crimes if feasible or to pass whatever evidence has been found on to another prosecutor closer to the place of the alleged crime.