Trump rips Cohen raid: 'It's a disgraceful situation, it’s a total witch hunt'

Key Points
  • FBI agents raided the office and residence of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, on Monday.
  • Agents reportedly seized evidence related to Cohen's payment of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
  • Daniels has said the money was in exchange for her silence about her affair with Trump. The White House denies such an affair occurred.
Trump: Cohen raid 'disgraceful'
Trump: Cohen raid 'disgraceful'

The FBI on Monday raided the New York City office and residence of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, seeking evidence related to the payment Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

The Washington Post, citing a source familiar with the case, reported that Cohen is being investigated for crimes possibly related to bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

The raids came after federal prosecutors in New York City obtained a search warrant following a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, Cohen's lawyer said.

At a White House event Monday evening, Trump slammed the raid on Cohen's office as a "disgraceful situation."

"It's a total witch hunt," Trump added before tearing into the entire special counsel investigation, his own attorney general and what he described as a lack of focus on former presidential opponent Hillary Clinton.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and related issues, including possible collusion by officials in the Trump campaign with Russians.

NBC News reported that one raid occurred at a law office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, located in midtown Manhattan. FBI agents also raided a room at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan, where Cohen has been staying, and executed the warrants there.

A doorman at the Regency said, "They are still here," when asked about the FBI.

A woman who answered a call placed to Cohen's room in the hotel said she was his wife. When asked if the FBI was in the room, she hung up.

Sources told NBC News that the raid was set in motion after Mueller's team became aware of certain information but concluded it did not fall under their mandate and passed the issue on to federal prosecutors in New York.

Sources said the search was related to $130,000 in payments that Cohen has said he made to Daniels just before the presidential election.

Daniels has said that money was given to her in exchange for her agreement to keep quiet about an affair she had with Trump that began in 2006. The White House has denied that Trump had sex with Daniels.

Michael Cohen, attorney for The Trump Organization, arrives at Trump Tower in New York City, U.S. January 17, 2017.
Stephanie Keith | Reuters

Trump has said he was unaware of the deal Cohen made with her. Cohen is an executive vice president and general counsel of the Trump Organization, the company founded by the president, which is now being run by his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.

Until recently, Cohen had been working with law firm Squire Patton Boggs, which said the raid had nothing to do with them.

"The firm's arrangement with Mr. Cohen reached its conclusion, mutually and in accordance with the terms of the agreement. We have been in contact with Federal authorities regarding their execution of a warrant relating to Mr. Cohen," the firm said in a statement to CNBC.

"These activities do not relate to the firm and we are in full cooperation," the firm added.

In addition to records related to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, FBI agents also seized emails, tax documents and business records, according to The New York Times, which cited a person briefed on the search.

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told MSNBC that just as he had predicted last week on that network, "Mr. Cohen has been placed in the crosshairs by Mr. Trump. And he has been set-up to take the fall."

"In my opinion, an enormous amount of misplaced faith has been placed on his shoulders and I do not believe he has the mettle to withstand it. If I am correct, this could end very, very badly for Mr. Trump and others," Avenatti said.


Last month Avenatti declined to comment when CNBC asked if he had been in contact with Mueller's office.

Read: Why special counsel Mueller might care about porn star Stormy Daniels getting money from President Trump's lawyer

Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan, said, "Today the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients. I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller."

"The decision by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary," Ryan said.

"It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney-client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment when asked about the raid by CNBC.

Spokesmen for the FBI's New York field office and for Mueller did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.

--CNBC's Ryan Ruggiero contributed to this report.