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Trump Furious Over Raids on Cohen in Case Centered Around Porn Star Payment

michael cohen at trump tower

WASHINGTON -- The FBI raided the office and residence of President Trump's longtime personal attorney, confidant and "fixer" today, prompting an angry reaction from the president and caution from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who advocated that special counsel Robert Mueller be able to stay the course in his investigation.

About a dozen agents were reportedly involved in serving multiple warrants on Michael Cohen's office, his home and the Loew's Regency hotel where he has been staying, seizing his computer, phone, emails, tax documents, business records and related materials.

Cohen has publicly admitted to making a $130,000 payment, from his home equity line of credit, to adult-film star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 in return for her silence about an alleged 2006 affair between Trump and Daniels, and to setting up a limited-liability company in Delaware to make the payment 10 days before the money transfer. The payment was flagged by Cohen's bank in a suspicious activity report at the time.

An outstanding question is whether investigators determine the payment was an undisclosed "in kind" campaign contribution intended to influence the outcome of the election, which would violate the $2,700 contribution limit as well as disclosure rules.

The Washington Post reported that Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. Mueller referred information to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, where Trump appointee Geoff Berman moved forward on the case and obtained the search warrant. Per the Justice Department's appointment of the special counsel, Mueller would refer information uncovered of a criminal nature to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who would decide if it should be referred to the appropriate jurisdictional authority if it falls outside the scope of the Russia investigation or decide to expand Mueller's scope.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and special counsel's office both declined to comment on the raids.

"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," Cohen's attorney Stephen Ryan said in a statement. "... It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath."

At a White House briefing with military leaders to determine a response to the latest gas attack in Syria, Trump railed against the Mueller investigation while not mentioning the Stormy Daniels payment.

"So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt. I've been saying it for a long time. I've wanted to keep it down," Trump said, calling the action against Cohen "an attack on our country in a true sense" and "a whole new level of unfairness."