If this is true, whatever they have on Cohen must be more serious than the Stormy payoff.
Worth noting that there is a long but specific list of serious crimes that can be investigated via wiretap, and campaign finance violations don’t make the cut. Most plausible candidates off the top of my head are bank fraud & structured transactions.
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) May 3, 2018
Wiretaps are highly intrusive, more so wiretaps of lawyers, more so wiretaps of lawyers known to be in frequent communication with the president of the United States. “It is *hard* to obtain a wiretap,” notes lawyer Renato Mariotti. “This was vetted by supervisors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, specialized lawyers at the Justice Department, and by a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and a judge. Given who Cohen is, it’s hard to believe Rosenstein was not consulted as well.”
It has to be bigger than Stormy.
It is not clear how long the wiretap has been authorized, but NBC News has learned it was in place in the weeks leading up to the raids on Cohen’s offices, hotel room, and home in early April, according to one person with direct knowledge.
At least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House was intercepted, the person said…
Two sources close to Trump’s newest attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, say he learned that days after the raid the president had made a call to Cohen, and told Trump never to call again out of concern the call was being recorded by prosecutors…
Giuliani is also described as having warned Trump that Cohen is likely to flip on him, something Trump pushed back on, telling Giuliani that he has known Cohen for years and expects him to be loyal, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the conversations.
Who’s listening in on these calls as they’re being tapped? Presumably the audio goes straight to the special master appointed by Kimba Wood to vet Cohen’s material for attorney-client privilege, but the story doesn’t say that.
Whatever the probable cause here relates to, once the feds got court approval to seize Cohen’s files (another very high procedural bar), there was an obvious risk that they’d get it to tap his phones too. In fact, they disclosed in a court motion weeks ago that they’d already obtained secret search warrants on Cohen’s email accounts before they raided his home and office. If they were checking his email, naturally they would have wanted to listen to his calls as well. Once they had seized his files, there was every logical reason for POTUS to assume that Cohen was being bugged (I assumed it myself) and therefore under no circumstances to phone him, at least until this criminal resolved somehow.
But of course Trump did phone him, reportedly, on Friday, April 13. Just to “check in.” That may be the phone call referred to in the excerpt. I’m gonna assume that POTUS was wise enough not to say anything incriminating on the call like “I’ll pardon you, just keep your mouth shut,” or — worse — something along these lines:
SNDY already claimed in court that they feared Cohen evidence might be deleted. The reason why was redacted. Could be what they heard on the wiretap. https://t.co/txv87yA5hy pic.twitter.com/pk3hJxTAV7
— Andrew Prokop (@awprokop) May 3, 2018
The fear that Cohen might destroy evidence logically would have been a key reason for the DOJ and then a federal judge to approve something as dramatic and obnoxious as an FBI raid on a lawyer’s home and office. Normally they’d seek evidence in discovery. A key mystery in the Cohen saga is why they thought that wouldn’t work in this case. Their suspicion must have been based on something. Did someone say something to Cohen in a phone call about shredding documents or whatever? The Trump Show is full of wacky yet exciting plot twists. A little more from Mariotti:
3/ That is different from a search warrant, which often seeks evidence of *past* crimes. To get the search warrant, the prosecutors had to convince the judge that evidence would be found in a location. That evidence (documents, etc.) could be about crimes from months ago.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 3, 2018
NBC’s sources, by the way, are “two people with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen,” whatever that means. Presumably those people aren’t connected to the feds, as I can’t fathom a reason why the U.S. Attorney would want Cohen to know, rather than just assume, that his calls are being recorded. I can’t imagine they’d want to risk more political blowback from Trump and the right after the uproar over the Cohen raid either. I *can* imagine that POTUS and his allies might want to publicize this if they found out about the wiretap somehow, for just that reason — they’re waging a PR war against the feds so they’d want to highlight an unusually aggressive move like a wiretap on Cohen. Rudy Giuliani called the FBI agents who raided Cohen’s office “stormtroopers” just last night on Fox, a gut punch coming from a former U.S. Attorney like himself. And curiously enough, Giuliani’s right in the middle of this NBC story, with two sources “close to him” telling reporters that he wisely warned Trump away from any further phone calls with Cohen. Hmmmm.
I know the New York FBI. There are no “stormtroopers” there; just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth. Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them, rather than comparing them to Nazis.
— James Comey (@Comey) May 3, 2018