The FBI seized papers and computers from a New York City law firm that is representing Trump in a suit over his business’s licensing agreements with the Trump International Hotel located in Washington, D.C. This could be a potential gamechanger for President Trump — just not the way we think.
First off, it’s incredible that the president’s attorneys fought tooth and nail to keep documents protected from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation of Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign — in other words, this looks like a huge obstruction of justice case. Then what exactly were they hiding? This is not yet clear, but if documents are indeed related to the nearly 300 interview interviews conducted by an FBI team that spanned seven states, then it could be a gold mine for investigators looking to determine whether Trump colluded with Russia in their bid to influence the 2016 election — an issue under investigation by a special counsel appointed by the president.
What we know about Mueller’s working relationship with the FBI in Washington so far, however, isn’t encouraging. According to Justice Department memos obtained by the Daily Beast, investigators have asked the FBI agents, the very people who conducted the interview about their political leanings and ties to Trump’s political opponents, to produce “voluminous and onerous paperwork” to prove the “desire to reach across the aisle” (i.e., cooperation with Trump’s investigators).
The revelation about FBI interview notes means that key questions may be hanging in the balance when it comes to Trump’s treatment of his private attorneys. At the very least, Trump has to question why a major criminal investigation is tied up with crafting legal documents for his lawyer.
We’re seeing evidence of this in more than an ethical sense. Last week the Washington Post reported that FBI officials who interviewed Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney since 2017, in the investigative probe filed away the key interviews. A defense attorney told the Post that Cohen may have received drafts of questions to respond to and responses to redacted sections of the questionnaires as well as uncensored answers. Does the law allow agents to end an interview so quickly? Does this mean that Trump and his attorneys may have intentionally withheld critical information from Cohen?
“The president certainly could face criminal liability in this investigation if he engaged in obstructive behavior or made false statements to investigators,” said Adam Kushner, former defense attorney in an SDNY case against a mobster and member of Congress. “There’s a public interest, from my perspective, in allowing the president to cooperate fully with the government to move the investigation forward.”
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