Trump Rages Over FBI Raids Targeting His Longtime Lawyer

“Attorney-client privilege is dead!”

Jim Loscalzo/ZUMA

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President Donald Trump continued to lash out over the FBI’s raids targeting his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, declaring on Twitter Tuesday morning that “attorney-client privilege is dead.”

The FBI reportedly seized documents related to Cohen’s $130,000 payout to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Agents also collected “communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, which would most likely require a special team of agents to review because conversations between lawyers and clients are protected from scrutiny in most instances,” the New York Times reported. Specifically, the documents will be reviewed by a so-called “taint team” before they are provided to prosecutors.

In his tweet, the president appears to be contending that in going after Cohen’s communications with him, the bureau is violating his legal rights. In a statement Monday, Cohen’s lawyer Stephen Ryan condemned the FBI’s actions as “completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” but he stopped short of calling them illegal.

But legal experts say that the notion that the FBI may have unjustly violated attorney-client privilege is dubious at best and that the FBI’s conduct only highlights the gravity of the investigation. The FBI’s decision to execute the raids also appears to show that investigators had reason to believe the destruction of evidence could take place. Former US attorney and deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman told USA Today:

The only way the prosecution would be permitted to examine any material that might otherwise fall under the attorney-client umbrella is if it is determined to be part of crime jointly undertaken by the attorney and the client. But for the privilege to be nullified, Litman said the taint team would have to get the approval of the court to present the material to the prosecution. 

Shortly after the raid was conducted, Trump blasted the FBI’s moves as “disgraceful.” He told reporters. “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.” The president also appeared to float the idea of firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who apparently referred the Cohen case to prosectors.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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