x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

US federal agents raid office of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

Acting under the jurisdiction of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, officers sought documents relating to payment for actress

Federal agents raided the New York offices of US president Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday. AFP/Bryan R. Smith
Federal agents raided the New York offices of US president Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday. AFP/Bryan R. Smith

US federal agents on Monday raided the offices of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, who has been under public scrutiny for weeks about a $130,000 payment to an actress who says she had sex with Mr Trump more than a decade ago.

The raid on Mr Cohen’s office was authorised by the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, New York, and was based at least partly on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to his lawyer Stephen Ryan.

“The decision by the US attorney’s office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” Mr Ryan said. “It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney-client communications between a lawyer and his clients.”

Mr Ryan did not elaborate on the documents that were taken from his client’s office but said he has cooperated with investigators, including speaking with politicians looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump addressed the issue at a meeting to discuss US reaction to the situation in Syria at the White House on Monday afternoon, saying: “It’s a disgraceful situation.

“I have this witch hunt constantly going on. It’s an attack on our country ... what we all stand for.”

The president also called the special counsel “the most conflicted group of people I have ever seen” and reopened a wound, criticising Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation.

In his remarks to the Senate intelligence committee, Mr Cohen confirmed that during the early parts of the 2016 campaign, the Trump Organisation pursued a proposal in Russia for a Trump Tower Moscow. He has played down the significance of the deal, which fell through, and said it was not related to the campaign.

But Mr Cohen has more recently attracted attention for his acknowledgment that he paid pornography star Stormy Daniels – real name Stephanie Clifford – $130,000 out of his pocket days before the 2016 presidential election. Mr Cohen has said neither the Trump Organisation nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Daniels and he was not reimbursed for the payment.

Mr Trump told reporters last week that he did not know about the payment.

Daniels said she had sex with Mr Trump in 2006. She has been suing to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement she signed before the election and has offered to return the $130,000 she was paid in order to “set the record straight.”

She argued the agreement is legally invalid because it was signed by only herself and Mr Cohen, but was not signed by Mr Trump.

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair magazine reported that Mr Cohen’s hotel room at Loews Regency on Park Avenue was also raided by FBI agents on Monday.