On Monday, FBI agents raided the office and residences of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney. The search warrants reportedly included conversations between Cohen and Trump, who has been Cohen’s only client for years.
The search reportedly included, possibly among other things, documents related a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, which Cohen made just days before the 2016 election. Daniels, an adult film actress, says she had an affair with Trump in 2006.
But it was the approval of the search warrants themselves that should terrify Trump. The best explanation, remarkably, came from Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News legal analyst. Napolitano explained that, under normal circumstances, communications between Trump and his attorney are privileged. But this privilege does not apply if there is “a serious allegation of illegal activity, by the lawyer with the client,” he said.
“There must be some evidence presented to a federal judge here in New York City sufficient to persuade that judge to sign a search warrant to permit the FBI in broad daylight to raid an attorney’s office, particularly when that attorney has one client and it happens to be the president of the United States,” Napolitano told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto.
“That evidence would have to be such as to persuade a neutral observer, the federal judge, that it is more likely than not, that among these seized documents is evidence of crimes by Mr. Cohen or Mr. Cohen and the president,” he continued.
The crime in question, Napolitano speculated, could be related to the $130,000 payment to Daniels.
Napolitano did echo some of Fox News’ favorite arguments about the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, saying there “seems to be no limit” to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. But then Napolitano reiterated that a judge would only issue the warrant if there was sufficient “evidence of crimes.”
“You’re talking about the most confidential and protected relationship there is — lawyer and client — and the federal government has just invaded that with the express authority and approval of a federal judge, who may only permit that invasion when she or he, the federal judge, has been satisfied that it’s more likely than not that in those materials are evidence of crimes,” he said.
It would be a crime, Napolitano went on to say, if the Trump campaign accepted a gift of $130,000, and if the funds came from the campaign. In that instance, “all bets are off,” as Cavuto put it.
What makes Napolitano’s comments Monday even more interesting is that when Napolitano talks, Trump listens. Trump directly echoed Napolitano’s arguments on Fox in a recent tweet about government surveillance shortly after Napolitano appeared on the network, and the White House has cited Napolitano’s claim, without evidence, that British intelligence operatives had surveilled Trump Tower as a favor to Barack Obama during the 2016 campaign.
According a Daily Beast report from February, the president and Napolitano have spoken a number of times in recent months, as well.