The Justice Department had to go to extraordinary lengths to conduct a raid on top Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

  • Legal experts noted that the Justice Department went to extraordinary lengths to carry out a raid on President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
  • They said those lengths show how big of a deal the raid is.
  • It's "bad news" for Cohen.


The Department of Justice had to go to extraordinary lengths in order to carry out the raid on President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

And the lengths to which the Justice Department went show just how big of a deal the raid is, and, as experts said, how it is such "bad news" for Cohen.

On Monday, the FBI raided Cohen's Manhattan office, his home, and his hotel room, as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair reported. The FBI was apparently acting on a referral from the special counsel Robert Mueller.

The agency took records related to several topics, including the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election, The Times reported. Federal prosecutors obtained a search warrant after Mueller sent a referral, said Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan.

The Washington Post reported that Cohen was under investigation for possible bank fraud and violations of election law. Meanwhile, The Times wrote that the raid did not appear to be directly connected to Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but that the information he provided was likely uncovered as part of his investigation.

FBI officials took emails, tax documents, and business records, a person briefed on the raid told The Times. Cohen left the Trump Organization in early 2017 and has served as a personal attorney to the president since.

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Donald Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives to appear before Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen drives after leaving his hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives at Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, talks to reporters as he departs after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for National Security Advisor, Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry talk with each other in the lobby at Trump Tower, December 12, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives to Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney arrives with his attorney, Stephen M. Ryan to speak with reporters after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, White House national security adviser-designate, from left, Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, and Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, speak in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had the 'highest confidence' in the intelligence community, in sharp contrast to President-elect Donald Trump's attack on the CIA after reports it found that the Russian government tried to help him win the presidency.

(Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg)

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, looks on as his attorney (not pictured) delivers a statement to reporters after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives to Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured leaving a restaurant in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, arrives with his attorney, Stephen M. Ryan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured arriving at his hotel in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy
Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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'This is historic'

Ken White, a former federal prosecutor, explained for Reason why the raid was such a big deal.

One reason was because the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which obtained the warrant, thought that not only was there enough evidence to obtain such a warrant, but that there was enough to get a warrant of a lawyer's office for their client communications, as investigators sought communications between Cohen and Trump

"That's a very fraught and extraordinary move that requires multiple levels of authorization within the Department of Justice," he wrote, adding that federal agents "are only supposed to raid a law firm if less intrusive measures won't work."

Such a raid requires both high-level approval and an "elaborate review process."

Authorization for such a warrant comes from either the district's US attorney or an assistant attorney general, as The Washington Post wrote

Another reason the raid was important was because a federal magistrate judge signed off on the warrant. That means a judge found probable cause to believe that the locations subject to the raid contained specific evidence of a federal crime.

" ... the Magistrate Judge knew that this would become one of the most scrutinized search warrant applications ever, and because the nature of the warrant of an attorney's office is unusual, you can expect that the Magistrate Judge felt pretty confident that there was enough there," White wrote.

"Again: this is a big deal," he said, adding, "This is historic."

'It shows this is just about the polar opposite of a Deep State plot'

Neal Katyal, US solicitor general under former President Barack Obama, tweeted that the entire episode is "bad news for Cohen."

"... it’s a big deal that Cohen was raided," he said. "DOJ only raids once they have concluded that lesser options (like cooperation) aren’t working and that there is a risk that evidence may be destroyed, etc. A raid requires approval from someone high-up."

Eric Columbus, a former Obama administration official who served in the Justice Department, noted to Business Insider that key actors involved with the warrant — Geoffrey Berman, the interim US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and FBI Director Christopher Wray — are all Trump appointees. Two of them, Berman and Wray, were personally interviewed by Trump for the jobs.

"It shows this is just about the polar opposite of a Deep State plot!" he said.

As The Washington Post's Robert Costa tweeted, the president's inner circle is "taken aback" by the Cohen raid.

"Rattled," Costa wrote. "Worry the president has a small legal team that lacks a heavy hitter. Worry that Mueller is making big moves and, in essence, prodding the president to finally sit down for an interview..."

Trump lashed out at news of the Cohen raid, telling reporters at the White House he may fire Mueller. Trump called the raid a "disgraceful situation" and "an attack on our country" and "what we all stand for."

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