See, now I know we’re living in a simulation. The tape is just Chekhov’s gun. If you say in the first chapter of The Trump Presidency that the president was recorded talking about grabbing women by the p*ssy, in the third chapter that recording must return to somehow place him in legal jeopardy. Every detail shared with the reader must be essential to the dramatic narrative!
What possible criminal angle could there be involving Michael Cohen and a tape leaked a month before the election to damage his client?
The F.B.I. agents who raided the office and hotel of President Trump’s lawyer on Monday were seeking all records related to the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Mr. Trump was heard making vulgar comments about women, according to three people who have been briefed on the contents of a federal search warrant.
The search warrant also sought evidence of whether the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, tried to suppress damaging information about Mr. Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It is not clear what role, if any, Mr. Cohen played regarding the tape, which was made public a month before the election. But the fact that the agents were seeking documents related to the tape reveals a new front in the investigation into Mr. Cohen that is being led by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.
A Daily Beast reporter notes that the tape was mentioned in Stormy Daniels’s lawsuit, but I don’t see from this why the feds would be interested in information about it from Cohen:
Stormy Daniels says the Access Hollywood tape was what made her want to come foward—and Cohen want to shut her up.
That's how/why the tape may be of interest to FBI and SDNY pic.twitter.com/5PMXlS935I
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) April 11, 2018
The fact that the emergence of the tape made Daniels want to speak up has nothing to do with Cohen, and certainly doesn’t imply anything illegal. Do the feds maybe have reason to believe that Cohen got wind of the tape’s existence before the Washington Post obtained it and scrambled to try to suppress it before they did? There could be illegal activity in that. If he was hoping/planning to pay off the source of the tape, that could also be a “campaign contribution” for purposes of federal law (i.e. a payment made to influence the election). If that payment had then gone unreported, that would be a campaign finance violation. But since the tape ended up at WaPo, presumably no payment was made, in which case what law did Cohen break?
Or was a payment made, and the source double-crossed him by handing the tape to WaPo anyway? Pure speculation, but we’re all trying to figure out which insane direction the dramatic narrative of this simulation will go next.
Another possibility is that Cohen threatened the source of the tape to try to scare him into not releasing it. As noted yesterday, he *has* been known to get blustery with reporters to an extent that’s unusual even for self-styled tough-guy lawyer/fixers:
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very f***ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up… for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet… you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
If he found out who was shopping the “Access Hollywood” tape before WaPo got hold of it and placed a call to the source, what might that call have sounded like? What sort of threats might have been made? Did Trump know anything about it?
Again, though: Speculation. I’m grasping because I don’t understand why they’d be searching for information related to the tape, which came from a Trump enemy, in his lawyer’s office. Stay tuned. Speaking of threats, though, here’s Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, telling MSNBC last night that they were advised within the past 48 hours to hold off on releasing the police sketch of the man who threatened Daniels years ago in Vegas for talking to the tabloids about Trump. As it turns out, he adds, they may not *need* to release the sketch. Do the feds have a lead on the suspect?
Update: Still verrrrrry speculative, but this is an interesting point by Jim Sciutto of CNN:
Remindier: Wikileaks started publishing first of hacked Podesta emails within an hour of the release of the Access Hollywood tape. This was also the same day ODNI/DHS first publicly blamed #Russia for election interference.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 11, 2018
Sciutto’s right. Do the feds suspect that Cohen, ahem, colluded with Wikileaks or other parties on the timing of the release of the hacked Podesta emails in order to draw public attention away from the tape? Given the Russian provenance of those emails, that would be a blockbuster for Mueller’s collusion probe — *if* that’s what the feds are after.