On Monday (April 9) the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s office, seizing documents about the $130,000 he gave porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet ahead of the 2016 election about an earlier alleged affair with Trump.
The New York Times first reported the raid, which sounds extensive. FBI agents took Cohen’s computer, phone, personal financial records and communications between him and clients, including Trump. It sounds like the FBI is looking into Cohen’s 2016 payment to Daniels based on information that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III came across in his investigation of Russian interference in the election.
What that is, we don’t know. But here’s some campaign finance legalese to keep in mind: If the $130,000 hush money was given to Daniels specifically to help Trump win the presidential election, it could be considered a campaign contribution. An illegal campaign contribution, given that the Trump campaign didn’t report it.
Some legal experts also believe the fact the money came from Cohen at all could be illegal. If he was acting in his capacity as an employee of the Trump Organization, it would be illegal for someone acting on behalf of a corporation to donate to a candidate.
Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, called the tactics “inappropriate and unnecessary,” saying Cohen has “cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
President Trump responded to reports that the FBI raided the office of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, on Monday. “It’s a disgraceful situation,” he said at the start of a military leadership meeting.“I have this witch hunt constantly going on.”
Multiple outlets reported on Monday (April 9) that investigators were searching Cohen’s office and his room at a Loews Regency Hotel, both in New York City. Among the documents the agents were reportedly examining were records related to a payment the attorney made to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.
Cohen acknowledged in February that he paid Clifford $130,000 in 2016, though he did not offer an explanation for the payment. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Clifford had an affair with Trump in 2006, and that Cohen paid the actress just before the 2016 election in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement and to refrain from speaking publicly about the matter. Cohen has maintained that Trump was unaware of the arrangement.
The White House has denied the affair. Trump told reporters Thursday (April 5) that he never knew about Cohen’s payment, which has drawn scrutiny over the possibility that it could have violated campaign finance laws.