Feds are monitoring phones of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, and spotted one call with White House - NBC News

  • Federal authorities are monitoring the phone lines of President Donald Trump's long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen, NBC News reported Thursday.
  • At least one call between Cohen's phone and the White House was spotted by that monitoring, according to the story.
  • Cohen is under criminal investigation in New York, where FBI agents in April seized files related to his $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, for which Trump claims to have reimbursed him.

Federal authorities are monitoring the phone lines of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and have spotted at least one call between a Cohen line and the White House, NBC News reported Thursday.

The monitoring described by three senior U.S. officials consists of tracking what numbers are called by Cohen's phones, and which numbers call those phones, according to NBC News, citing sources.

The network originally had reported Thursday that Cohen's phones were being wiretapped. That story was based on two separate sources with knowledge of legal proceedings involving Cohen.

A wiretap would have allowed for investigators to listen in on the calls, instead of merely knowing when they were placed, and where they were placed to or from.

"But three senior U.S. officials now dispute that," claim of wiretap, "saying that the monitoring of Cohen's phones was limited to a log of calls, known as a PEN register, not a wiretap where investigators can actually listen to calls," NBC News said in a prepared statement labeled "Correction."

"NBC News will continue to report out this story," the network said.

It is not clear how long the monitoring of phone calls has been authorized, but NBC News said it learned that it was in place in the weeks leading up to the April 9 raids on Cohen's office, hotel room and home.

Cohen is under criminal investigation by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York for issues that include his business dealings.

In addition to serving as Trump's lawyer, Cohen was also counsel for the Trump Organization, the business entity the president previously ran.

Among the items seized from Cohen last month were files related to a $130,000 payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels has said the money was in exchange for her promise to keep quiet about an affair she says she had with Trump in 2006. The White House has denied the affair happened.

Daniels lawyer, Michael Avenatti, during an appearance on MSNBC, said he knew that Cohen's text messages were also tracked by investigators.

"It's a fact," Avenatti said.

"I don't think this president is going to serve out his term. I just don't," said Avenatti.

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018.

It has been previously known that federal prosecutors were monitoring Cohen's email accounts for some time before the April 9 raid.

On Wednesday night, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on the Fox News program "Hannity" that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for that payment to Daniels.

Giuliani's statement contradicted previous denials by both Cohen and Trump that the president had not paid Cohen.

Giuliani is now on Trump's legal team for dealing with an ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. That probe is focused on Russian interference in the presidential election.

Giuliani is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. According to NBC News, he warned Trump against making any more calls to Cohen because of worries that the call in April was recorded by prosecutors.

NBC News' story says that Giuliani has warned Trump that Cohen is likely to agree to cooperate with prosecutors in a potential probe of the president. But Trump has disputed Giuliani's belief, saying that he expects that Cohen will remain loyal to him.

Correction from NBC News: Earlier today, NBC News reported that there was a wiretap on the phones of Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney, citing two separate sources with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen. But three senior U.S. officials now dispute that, saying that the monitoring of Cohen's phones was limited to a log of calls, known as a PEN register, not a wiretap, where investigators can actually listen to calls. NBC News will continue to report out this story.