Federal prosecutors said in a court filing Friday that the criminal probe that led them to raid the offices of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer this week is focused on his "personal business dealings" and has been going on for months.
They also made clear that investigators have been gathering extensive evidence for some time as part of an ongoing grand jury investigation.
Trump has expressed fury that prosecutors could have obtained communications he had with his lawyer, posting on Twitter this week, "Attorney-client privilege is dead!"
The raids enraged Trump, who called them an "attack on the country".
Joanna Hendon said that as Cohen's client, Trump has the right to assert what's privileged, not Cohen.
The search warrant also sought communications between then-candidate Trump and his associates regarding efforts to prevent disclosure of the tape, according to one of the sources. It was quickly adjourned to Monday after another lawyer for Trump interjected that she needed more time to prepare.
Mr. Trump, who had been planning to make a choice this week about whether or not to sit down with the distinctive counsel to an interview, has since taken a more adversarial tone towards Mr. Mueller considering that the warrant was implemented on Monday. People close to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen regard the warrant as an attempt by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to pry into Mr. Trump's personal life - using other prosecutors as his proxy.More news: Art Bell (1945 - 2018), paranormal-themed radio show host
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Of Trump, McKay said: "His attorney-client privilege is no greater than any other person who seeks legal advice".
They also were looking for any evidence that the lawyer, Michael Cohen, had tried to hide damaging information about Trump during the election, sources briefed on the warrant told the Times.
Clifford's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, spoke briefly in court. But, as the Times notes, the fact that agents were looking for documents related to the tape exposed a "new front" in the investigation into Cohen by the United States attorney's office in Manhattan.
"We have every reason to believe that some of the documents seized relate to my client", he said. They also seized documents tied to payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and was paid $130,000 in hush money in a deal hashed out with Cohen.
The Post revealed the existence of the recording on October 7, 2016.
The warrant indicates that investigators appear to be examining what role the longtime Trump attorney played in trying to tamp down unflattering stories as Trump sought to win the White House.