WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors on Friday said President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen is the target of a "months-long" criminal investigation that centers on Cohen's own business dealings rather than his legal work on Trump's behalf. The ...
Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY Published 3:35 p.m. ET April 13, 2018 | Updated 5:12 p.m. ET April 13, 2018
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WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors on Friday said President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen is the target of a "months-long" criminal investigation that centers on Cohen's own business dealings rather than his legal work on Trump's behalf.
The information gathered so far in the probe suggests "that the overwhelming majority of evidence" FBI agents seized from Cohen in a raid this week will not contain privileged attorney-client communications between Cohen and Trump but will relate to Cohen's "personal business dealings and finances," federal lawyers said in court documents.
The Friday afternoon filing came in response to Cohen's emergency request to block the Justice Department from using materials the FBI seized earlier this week in an extraordinary raid of his offices, home and hotel room.
Federal investigators associated with the FBI and the Mueller investigation have raided the offices of President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen and seized communications between Cohen and his clients. USA TODAY
Cohen, a longtime Trump Organization attorney, is one of the president's closest allies and is at the center of a controversy involving his payment of $130,000 just 11 days before the 2016 president election to porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels says she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006.
Cohen's lawyer argued Friday during a hastily scheduled court hearing in New York that documents and devices seized from Cohen should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Cohen also has sought to review the material before prosecutors gain access them.
In their filing, lawyers with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan described Cohen's request to screen seized materials as overly broad and said it the "belies the true intent of his motion: to delay the case" and keep evidence out of prosecutors' hands.
The federal magistrate judge who approved the search warrant that led to Monday's raids found "probable cause to believe that Cohen’s residence, office, safety deposit box, hotel room and electronic devices contained evidence, fruits and instrumentalities that specified federal crimes were committed," prosecutors said.
In their filing opposing Cohen's request for a restraining order, prosecutors redacted the specific crimes they suspect Cohen of having committed but indicated they involve "acts of concealment" and fraud.
The 23-page filing also revealed that investigators have been gathering evidence for some time as part of a grand-jury probe. Prosecutors disclosed, for the first time, that agents had secured an earlier search warrant and already have reviewed multiple email accounts maintained by Cohen.
Prosecutors said those reviews found "zero" emails between Cohen and Trump and instead indicate that Cohen "is in fact performing little or no legal work" that would be subject to attorney-client privilege.
Friday's hearing in a federal courtroom in Manhattan marked an exceptional moment, as it pitted lawyers working for Trump's own Justice Department against those representing Trump and the president's longtime attorney.
Although Cohen worked for the Trump Organization before resigning at the start of Trump's presidency, he also has maintained private business interests, including ownership of a taxi medallion operation and real-estate investments.
Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti also appeared Friday and suggested that some of the seized materials may involve the adult actress. He declined to say whether Daniels has met with investigators but told reporters he and his client are "fully cooperating" with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Contributing: Brad Heath
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