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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Trump lawyer under investigation for 'personal business dealings'

FBI agents searched Mr Cohen's home in a raid on Monday

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, walks down the sidewalk in New York, Wednesday. Seth Wenig/ AP Photo
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, walks down the sidewalk in New York, Wednesday. Seth Wenig/ AP Photo

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation for his "personal business dealings," the Justice Department said on Friday.

US Attorney Robert Khuzami, in a motion filed with a US District Court judge in New York, redacted the alleged criminal conduct for which Mr Cohen is being investigated.

The Justice Department filing was in response to a request by Mr Cohen for a temporary restraining order that would prevent law enforcement from reviewing certain material seized by FBI agents on Monday.

FBI agents searched Mr Cohen's home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones in a raid on Monday that drew a furious reaction from Mr Trump.

Mr Trump denounced the FBI raid on "good man" Cohen as "disgraceful" and an "attack on our country."

Mr Cohen has been Trump's personal lawyer for years and has acknowledged making a $130,000 payment before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, who says she had a tryst with Trump a decade ago.

Mr Cohen has long been known as Trump's rough-and-tumble "fixer" dedicated to protecting his boss's interests.

According to The Washington Post, Mr Cohen may be under examination for possible bank fraud and for campaign finance violations.

Mr Cohen's lawyer cited attorney-client privilege in seeking to restrict access to "documents and communications related to numerous clients."

But the government said Mr Cohen appears to have only one client -- Donald Trump.

"The (US Attorney) and FBI have reason to believe that Cohen has exceedingly few clients and a low volume of potentially privileged communications," the Justice Department motion said.

"It is neither apparent that Cohen, in his capacity as an attorney, has many, or any, attorney-client relationships other than with President Donald Trump," it said.

"Although Cohen is an attorney, he also has several other business interests and sources of income," the motion said, and he "is being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centres on his personal business dealings."

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"The searches are the result of a months-long investigation into Cohen, and seek evidence of crimes, many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen's own business dealings," it added.

US District Judge Kimba Wood put off making any decision until Monday at the earliest.

Present in the courtroom on Friday was Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, who is seeking to have the courts throw out a hush agreement prohibiting her from talking about her affair with Trump.

Ms Daniels is among several women who claim to have had affairs with Trump in the past and were pressured or paid to keep quiet about them.

Mr Trump has denied any knowledge of Mr Cohen's payment to secure Ms Daniel's October 2016 signature on a secret agreement preventing her from talking about the affair.

The raid on Mr Cohen's home and office came as special counsel Robert Mueller's probe intensifies its focus on the president's inner circle.

Mr Mueller's team is examining possible collusion between Mr Trump's 2016 election campaign team and Russia, as well as allegations of corrupt behaviour by Trump campaign lieutenants and of White House efforts to obstruct the investigation.

So far, 19 people have been indicted, including the chairman of Mr Trump's campaign and his former national security adviser.