President Donald Trump declared Tuesday morning that “attorney-client privilege is dead” the day after the FBI raided the office and hotel room of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant.
Trump also tweeted “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!,” apparently referencing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Sources inside the White House have told CNN that Trump sees the move against Cohen as proof that Mueller has leaped far beyond the constraints of his original probe into whether his campaign operatives colluded with Russia.
One source familiar with the matter told CNN included in the documents authorities seized was information related to porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 that the White House has denied.
However, attorney-client privilege, which Trump suggested was violated by the raid, does not apply if the attorney-client communication was made in the furtherance of a crime.
Cohen, alongside Trump, is ensnared in a legal battle over the sourcing of a $130,000 “hush agreement” payment to Daniels less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Any involvement by Trump could suggest the payment was an in-kind campaign contribution which was not disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, which would be a violation of federal law, according to Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance attorney who works for Common Cause. The FBI seizure included bank records, a source said.
On Monday, Trump also called the raid a “disgraceful situation” and “an attack on our country.” Asked if he would fire Mueller, he said: “We’ll see what happens.” While that could have the effect of putting a screeching halt to the investigation, some members of Congress, including Republicans, have said that Mueller’s termination could lead to impeachment proceedings.
CNN’s Eli Watkins and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.