NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - The FBI's raid of attorney Michael Cohen's office, home, and hotel room has lots of legal implications. Cohen is Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer.
Cohen looks like he could be in a lot of trouble, and that may mean trouble for President Trump, too. The warrant reportedly sought evidence of bank fraud and campaign finance violations stemming from those payments he made or facilitated on the eve of the election to quiet a Playboy playmate and a porn star's stories of their affairs with Trump.
Now the president is calling this raid a "violation of attorney-client privilege." But the president has said he knew nothing of the payments, and Cohen said he acted on his own. So that could put any evidence of those crimes beyond the attorney-client privilege.
And if Trump did know, then he and Cohen may have worked together to break the law. That could trigger what is called the "crime-fraud exception" to the attorney-client privilege.
Also, it is worth noting that law enforcement doesn't raid lawyers' offices lightly. Authorities have a whole set of guidelines to follow when doing so, including federal prosecutors creating a so-called dirty team to sort out what is privileged and what isn't so as to not taint the clean team of prosecutors handling the case.
The raid also suggests that the federal prosecutors in New York weren't confident that Cohen would preserve or hand over the evidence they sought. And a judge agreed.
For starters, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing all of this, is a Republican and a Trump appointee. Mueller, whom Rosenstein appointed to lead the Russia investigation after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, was a Republican. FBI Director Chris Wray is a Trump-appointed Republican.
That is pretty significant given that they've indicted or secured guilty pleas from the president's former campaign manager and national security advisor, among others.
And all signs point to this being played by the book. Mueller referred the evidence to Rosenstein because it was outside the scope of the Russia probe. Rosenstein agreed and gave it to the Southern District of New York. They went to a judge, who found probable cause, and Rosenstein authorized the raid.
If the investigators in New York find anything related to the Russia probe, they can share it with Mueller's team.
Cohen likely knows a lot more about Trump's affairs—personal, business, and political—than either Michael Flynn or Paul Manafort ever did.
The special counsel regulations take the power to fire the special counsel out of the president's hands and give it to the attorney general. In this case, because Jeff Sessions is recused, Deputy AG Rosenstein has the power. Trump could argue that is unconstitutional and fire Mueller himself or fire Rosenstein and put in someone who will fire Mueller.
Either way, the Cohen raid raises the stakes so high that firing Mueller would look like a clear case of obstruction of justice that some Republican senators have called "political suicide." But how the Congress would actually respond in such a situation is anyone's guess.