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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."

Trump also took another stab at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who worked on the Trump campaign and recused himself from the Russian investigation; Rosenstein then appointed Mueller. "The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself, or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a -- put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country, but you'll figure that out," Trump said. He also referenced the pre-Mueller FBI investigation into potential contacts or collusion between his campaign and Kremlin, adding that "you look at what took place and what happened, and it's a disgrace."

Asked why he didn't just fire Mueller, Trump replied, "Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens. But I think it's really a sad situation, when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said if Trump is think about firing Mueller, "Don't."

“Special Counsel Mueller, a Republican, has uncovered a deep and detailed pattern of Russian interference in our elections that has led to indictments and guilty pleas. It has also led to the Trump administration itself leveling sanctions against Russian individuals for meddling in our elections, proof that it’s not a so-called ‘witch hunt,'" Schumer said in a statement. “The investigation is critical to the health of our democracy, and must be allowed to continue.”

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Fox News that he believes the special counsel's investigation is "spreading wider."

"Having said that, if the special counsel discovers something that he believes is improper, I think he has a legal, if not a moral obligation to pursue it," Kennedy added. "Having said that, though, we're well over a year into this, and I think the American people are anxious to have it wrapped up. I know I am. Have the facts reported. Let the chips fall where they may. If somebody did something wrong, they should be held accountable."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), another Judiciary Committee member, branded the raids “probably one of the most significant, most seismic events in the Trump-Russia investigation" and predicted they would make the president more "impulsive and wrathful."

House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) told CNN that acquiring a search warrant is not "breaking in" as Trump charged and stressed the raids were set into motion by the U.S. Attorney in New York, where a judge there "agreed there was probable cause."

Hurd further said that "Mueller should stay" and "should be allowed to turn over every rock, pursue every lead."

"I don't think Bob Mueller has done anything to warrant firing and I think many of us in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, believe that is the case," the congressman said.