There's one other person the FBI targeted as aggressively as Michael Cohen

 

  • The FBI's raid on President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer's home and office Monday took Washington by storm.
  • There is one other known, high-profile instance in the last year in which the FBI targeted someone in a criminal investigation tied to Trump in the same manner: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
  • The common thread between the Cohen and Manafort raids: investigators believed, with high confidence, that neither man could be trusted not to conceal, destroy, or move evidence outside the court's jurisdiction.
  • Three months after the Manafort raid, Mueller's office slapped him with a 12-count indictment. He was later charged with dozens of other financial crimes.

On Monday morning, FBI agents armed with a search warrant raided the home and office of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer and closest confidant. They seized documents, electronic devices, personal financial records, and attorney-client communications, including those between Cohen and Trump.

The raids sent shockwaves through Washington, and legal analysts were unequivocal in emphasizing the enormity of their implications for Cohen and Trump, both of whom could face significant legal exposure depending on what investigators uncover.

There is one other high-profile instance over the last year in which the FBI went after a subject in a criminal investigation tied to Trump with the same aggression: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The FBI conducted an early-morning raid on Manafort's Virginia home last July by knocking on his bedroom door at the crack of dawn. They left with various records, including tax and foreign banking documents.

Both Cohen and Manafort were cooperating with investigators at the time of the raids, which begs the question: what prompted such an aggressive tactic by the FBI?

12 PHOTOS
Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
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Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort speaks at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort (C) and daughter Ivanka (R) look on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort appears at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort talks to the media from the Trump family box on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, smiles as he talks with other Trump campaign staff after Trump spoke to supporters following the results of the Indiana state primary, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's senior campaign adviser Paul Manafort (L) walks into a reception with former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort listens to Ivanka Trump speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 20: A man with a security credential takes a selfie at the podium as Donald Trump, flanked by campaign manager Paul Manafort and daughter Ivanka, checks the podium early Thursday afternoon in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday July 20, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 19: Paul Manafort, advisor to Donald Trump, is seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Paul Manafort., Convention Manager, Trump Campaign, appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday April 10, 2016. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NA.R.DoleMicCk1.081596.RG.Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole looks up from podium at balloons and television cameras as convention center manager Paul Manafort, at right, points out preparations for tonight's acceptance speech in San Diego, 08/15/96. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, young Republicans political operatives who have set up lobbying firms. (Photo by Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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According to legal experts and former federal prosecutors, there's one explanation: investigators did not think either man could be trusted.

"They obviously had reason to believe they could not trust Cohen enough to subpoena him and wait for the response," said Jeffrey Cramer, a former US attorney in Chicago who spent 12 years at the Department of Justice. "So they just went in, and that is hugely significant."

Harry Sandick, a former assistant US attorney from the Southern District of New York, echoed that point.

Search warrants like the one used in the Cohen and Manafort raids — which some legal experts characterize as a "no-knock" warrant — are "executed early in the day and by large teams of armed federal agents," Sandick said.

The FBI typically uses this approach in cases related to organized crime, drug dealing, and public corruption. It is less common in white-collar investigations unless prosecutors fear that a subject or target may destroy, conceal, or move evidence outside the district's jurisdiction.

Cohen has been referred to at different times as Trump's fixer, "pit bull," and consigliere. In addition to facing legal scrutiny for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations, Cohen is a subject of interest in at least four investigative threads related to Trump.

Meanwhile, when the FBI asked to raid Manafort's home last year, "Mueller and his staff may have decided that, despite the claims of cooperation from Manafort's lawyer, Manafort could not be trusted to provide all of the documents requested by subpoena," wrote Harvard Law School professor Alex Whiting, who served for a decade as a federal prosecutor at the Department of Justice and the US Attorney's office in Boston.

"If Mueller's team thought that there was any risk that Manafort would hide or destroy documents, that would be a strong reason to proceed with a search warrant," he added.

Prosecutors had to meet an even higher standard of proof in Cohen's case, given his status as a lawyer.

The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which obtained the Cohen warrant, thought that not only was there enough evidence to obtain such a warrant but also that there was enough to seek attorney-client communications, such as those between Cohen and Trump.

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

Cramer noted that the US attorney's office would have had to clear a slew of internal hurdles, which do not necessarily exist for the average citizen, to obtain the search warrant on Cohen before it went to a federal judge.

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Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen
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Donald Trump's 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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"So clearly, the affidavit was strong enough to warrant this kind of action," he added.

The Cohen raid was not conducted by investigators working for Mueller. Instead, FBI agents working for the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York carried out the operation after apparently getting a referral from Mueller.

Cohen is already a subject of scrutiny in Mueller's investigation, which is examining whether Trump or his associates colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 US election in his favor. The Southern District's role in the raid remains unclear, but several legal analysts suggested the fact that the raid wasn't carried out by Mueller's agents indicates Cohen is the subject of not one, but two criminal investigations.

Three months after FBI agents raided Manafort's home last year, Mueller indicted him on 12 counts related to money laundering, tax fraud, conspiracy against the US, and failure to register as a foreign agent. Manafort was later slapped with additional charges like tax and bank fraud, all of which center around his lobbying work in Ukraine.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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