The F.B.I. agents who raided the office of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Monday were looking for records about payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump, as well as information related to the role of the publisher of The National Enquirer in silencing one of the women, according to several people briefed on the investigation.
This excerpt is pulled from Michael D. Shear’s, Matt Apuzzo’s and Sharon LaFraniere’s article, “Raids on Trump’s Lawyer Sought Records of Payments to Women,” published by the New York Times on April 10, 2018. Read the full report here.
The search warrant carried out by the public corruption unit of the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan sought information about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she carried on a nearly yearlong affair with Trump shortly after the birth of his youngest son in 2006.
McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., The Enquirer’s parent company, whose chief executive is a friend of Trump’s, for the rights to her story in August 2016, who did not publish it in a practice known as catch and kill.
Agents were also searching the office and hotel room for information related to Stephanie Clifford a.k.a Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress, who also said she had sex with Trump while he was married. Cohen has acknowledged that he paid Clifford $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to secure her silence days before the 2016 presidential election.
The president, who reacted to news of the raids on Monday by lashing out at his top law enforcement officials, described the investigations in a Twitter post on Tuesday as “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” and later declined to respond to reporters’ questions.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, refused to say that Trump retains confidence in his attorney general, deputy attorney general or F.B.I. director. She also said that Trump “believes he has the power” to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia inquiry, a position directly contradicted by federal regulations.
The F.B.I. also searched for records related to Cohen’s New York taxicab business, apparently a separate line of inquiry unrelated to Trump.
Associates said that, besides enraging Trump, the early-morning searches have also led him to privately wonder whether he should fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the veteran prosecutor he appointed as deputy attorney general. According to several government officials, Rosenstein personally signed off on Monday’s F.B.I. decision to raid Cohen’s office.
The involvement of Rosenstein and top prosecutors in New York in the raids of Cohen’s office and hotel room makes it harder for Trump to argue that his legal problems are the result of a witch hunt led by Mueller. In addition to Rosenstein, all of the top law enforcement officials involved in the raids are Republicans, including Mueller and Christopher A. Wray, Trump’s choice to succeed James B. Comey as director of the F.B.I.