The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, and collected records on subjects including Cohen’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, the New York Times reported.
The raid Monday came after federal prosecutors in Manhattan got a search warrant after a referral from special counsel Robert S. Mueller, who is looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, among other issues. The Times said the search did not appear to be directly related to Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he found and shared with the New York prosecutors.
“Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s lawyer, told The Times. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.
3:49 p.m. PST update: President Trump blasted the FBI raid as “disgraceful” and a “witch hunt” during a military briefing on Monday evening.
Last week, Trump spoke out for the first time about the payment to Daniels, who said she had sex with him in 2006 and that Cohen paid her the $130,000 in October 2016 — just before Election Day — to keep silent about it. Trump said “no” when asked if he was aware of Cohen paying Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Cohen has acknowledged making the payment.
Trump told reporters they should direct follow-up questions to Cohen.
In a “60 Minutes” interview last month, Daniels said Trump dangled the possibility of her appearing on his NBC reality competition “Celebrity Apprentice” after they met at a celebrity golf event in 2006. She said she last met with him in 2007.
Daniels also said on “60 Minutes” that in 2011, a mystery man in a Las Vegas parking lot threatened her to leave Trump alone. That threat came after she sold her story to a sister publication of In Touch magazine. The story wasn’t published at the time, but In Touch finally did publish it after The Wall Street Journal broke the news in January that Cohen had paid Daniels to remain silent.
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has promised that a composite sketch of the man who threatened her will be released Tuesday. He tweeted a link to the Times’ story about the raid of Cohen’s office Monday, writing: “An enormous amount of misplaced faith has been placed on MC’s shoulders IMO. If he does not hold up, this could end very very badly for DJT and others.”
By “MC,” he meant Michael Cohen, and “DJT” stands for Donald J. Trump.
Daniels has sued to be released from the non-disclosure agreement, arguing that it is invalid because Trump never signed it. Cohen contends that Daniels must pay up to $20 million for repeatedly violating the agreement.
Meriah Doty contributed to this story.