Robert Mueller’s team of investigators raided Michael Cohen’s office and residence in April of last year, but that was hardly the beginning of his interest in Donald Trump’s fixer. Redacted warrants released today as part of a FOIA demand shows that Mueller got search warrants for Cohen’s communications almost a full year earlier. That might revive some discussion about attorney-client privilege and the special counsel’s investigation — as well as speculation as to why redactions conceal allegations of campaign-finance violations:
Special counsel Robert Mueller first obtained search warrants for three of Michael Cohen’s email accounts starting in the summer of 2017, long before Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney was raided by FBI agents in April 2018 for campaign finance crimes, according to partially redacted search warrant materials released Tuesday morning.
The documents, which number hundreds of pages, were released as a result of a ruling from federal Judge William Pauley partially granting a request from various media organizations, including CNN, to unseal documents related to the raid on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. The materials related to the campaign finance contribution scheme are entirely redacted in the documents.
Recall at the time of the raid that Trump and others objected to seizure of Cohen’s work on the basis of privilege. Alan Dershowitz declared attorney-client privilege “dead” in the United States after the raid. Mueller and the courts set up a blind review intended to separate legitimately privileged material from evidence of corrupt acts by Cohen on behalf of clients.
After Cohen became a reluctant cooperator, that issue largely dropped off the radar screen, but one has to wonder whether it will re-emerge now. Privilege attaches to the client, not the attorney, and anything captured by prosecutors before the raid might well have been privileged. In fact, it’s almost a certainty. Did they hold all of that material for the special master? Was it also vetted — and if so, how, and to what standard?
Of course, Mueller stopped taking an interest in Cohen after a few months, transferring the case off to the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York. Cohen cooperated with Mueller afterward, unimpressively according to their sentencing recommendation, but he’s also cooperating with SDNY to this day. This tells us that Mueller’s still unlikely to develop anything through Cohen, but SDNY looks veeerrrrryyyyy interested in picking Cohen’s brain to this day. The need to redact everything under the heading “The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme” strongly suggests that prosecutors are actively pursuing a case against someone other than Cohen to this day.
NRO’s Andrew McCarthy has written repeatedly that the SDNY investigation presents a far greater threat to Trump than Mueller’s. This release provides more evidence of that potential threat to Trump, or at least those associated with the fundraising for the campaign. It may still come to nothing, but at the very least we know it hasn’t yet come to nothing.
Update: Worth noting, but only barely:
Rosenstein extending his DOJ tenure indefinitely pic.twitter.com/MjwCa5hICn
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) March 19, 2019
As NBC’s Pete Willians explains, it’s not “indefinitely.” Rod Rosenstein’s successor has already been nominated, and Jeffrey Rosen’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for next month. Rosenstein’s departure date was ambiguous, and apparently still is, but he’s leaving at some point in the next few weeks.