President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation for his conduct in his personal business dealings as part an “ongoing grand jury investigation” being conducted by the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in the Southern District of New York and the FBI--independent of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, court documents obtained by Fox News state.
U.S. Attorney Robert S. Khuzami of the Southern District of New York on Friday made a motion opposing Cohen's motion for a temporary restraining order. The order stated that the FBI raid of Cohen’s “residence, hotel room, office, safety deposit box, and electronic devices” on April 9 was approved by a federal magistrate judge.
The order states that the searches into Cohen’s properties are “the result of a monthslong 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.”
“These searches were carried out as part of an ongoing grand jury investigation being conducted by the USAO-SDNY and the FBI,” the order, obtained by Fox News, read.
The order goes on to explain in a footnote that while Mueller did, in fact, refer the investigation into Cohen, the USAO-SDNY is proceeding with the investigation “independent” of Mueller’s team.
This week critics of Mueller have claimed that the special counsel’s referral of an investigation into Cohen was an overreach of his original jurisdiction. But the order filed on Friday states the investigation is focused solely on Cohen’s personal conduct in his business dealings, and “independent” of Mueller’s investigation.
“Although Cohen accurately states that the Special Counsel’s Office [Robert Mueller] referred this investigation to the USAO-SDNY, the investigation has proceeded independent from the SCO’s investigation.”
The judge “had found probable cause to believe that the premises and devices searched contained evidence, fruits, and instrumentalities of conduct for which Cohen is under criminal investigation.” The order goes on to cite a topic of investigation, which has been heavily redacted.
“Absent a search warrant, these records could have been deleted without record, and without recourse for the law enforcement,” the motion states, citing heavily redacted information that the USAO-SDNY learned throughout the investigation.
Cohen’s legal defense, at this point, the order said, is seeking to “prevent” the USDNY attorneys’ office from “reviewing lawfully-obtained evidence of Cohen’s alleged criminal conduct,” and instead requested that they first have the ability to review the documents and materials and determine what they believe to be “responsive” and “non-privileged.”
“Cohen is not a criminal defense attorney, has no cases with the USAO-SDNY, and is being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings,” the order reads. “Based on the information gathered in the investigation to date, the USAO-SDNY and FBI have reason to believe that Cohen has exceedingly few clients and a low volume of potentially privileged communications.”
The order also states that Cohen’s claim that he has confidential communications with “multiple clients” is “exaggerated.”
“Cohen has told at least one witness that he only has one client—President Trump,” the order states.
Trump has called Cohen in recent days, a White House official told Fox News. Earlier this week, the president tweeted, “Attorney-client privilege is dead!”
But the order states that the U.S. Attorney’s office at SDNY and the FBI would “take seriously the obligation to respect attorney-client privilege.”
“Under no circumstances will a potentially privileged document or documents potentially subject to the crime-fraud exception be provided to or described to the Investigative Team without the consent of the privilege holder or his/her counsel, or the court’s approval,” the order read.
This week federal prosecutors reportedly sought records of the payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
The $130,000 payment was in exchange for Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford—signing a nondisclosure agreement regarding a one-time alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, Daniels has said.
Daniels, who initially denied a sexual relationship with the president, is now seeking depositions from both Trump and Cohen. If approved, Trump would be the first sitting president to be deposed since former President Bill Clinton during Ken Starr's special counsel investigation.
Late Tuesday, Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted that he and his client would "fully cooperate" with any investigation involving the $130,000 payment.
Federal agents also sought records on ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who received $150,000 from the parent company of The National Enquirer, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week. McDougal also claims she had sexual relations with Trump while he was married to his wife, Melania.
The warrant relating to Cohen also seeks information about his associates in the taxi industry. Cohen has been a longtime owner of taxi medallions, in addition to working as a top lawyer for the Trump Organization.
“We do not generally comment on such matters, but have and will continue to comply with inquiries from proper authorities,” a spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in a statement to Fox News this week.
In an off-camera interview with CNN on Tuesday, Cohen said that members of the FBI who conducted the search and seizure were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful.”
“I think it will be proven that everything I did was legal,” Cohen told CNN.
When asked at the White House press briefing Friday if Cohen was still Trump’s personal attorney, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said she was “not sure.”
Fox News’ Shira Bush contributed to this report.