FBI agents who raided top Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, hotel room, and residence on Monday afternoon were reportedly searching for records of payments to two women who claimed they had an affair with President Trump, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
According to a source briefed on the investigation who spoke with the Times, agents were also specifically searching for information “related to the publisher of The National Enquirer’s role in silencing one of the women.”
The FBI was reportedly looking for any documents related to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims she had an affair with Trump from 2006 to 2007. McDougal was paid $150,000 for the rights to her story by American Media Inc. (AMI), which owns the National Enquirer. The company also agreed to run “fitness columns and magazine covers” featuring McDougal. AMI never published the story.
AMI CEO David Pecker is close friends with Trump and the Enquirer endorsed him for president.
That FBI agents were searching Cohen’s office for information about the AMI payment to McDougal is particularly notable, as Cohen claims to have had no part in the transaction. As ThinkProgress previously reported, however, McDougal’s legal team, citing a February New York Times report, claims her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson, kept Cohen in the loop throughout the process. McDougal now believes that Davidson was more concerned with Cohen and Trump’s interests than her own.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Peter Stris, McDougal’s current attorney, responded to the investigation, saying he would litigate his case in the courtroom, not in the media.
With apologies to those frustrated that #KarenMcDougal + our legal team is not trying our case in the media, let me be clear: we have no statement on the #CohenRaid. Unless @realDonaldTrump has the temerity to call Karen a liar, we are happy to let the litigation process unfold.
— Peter K. Stris (@PeterStris) April 10, 2018
McDougal is suing AMI to invalidate her contract, alleging she was fraudulently induced to sign, among other claims. She has already recounted the details of her affair with Trump in an interview with CNN.
The New York Times’ source also claimed that the FBI had sought to find any documents tied to a $130,000 payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016, weeks before the presidential election. Daniels claims that she had an affair with Trump in 2006, a year after his marriage to his current wife, Melania, and that Cohen allegedly pressured her to sign a non-disclosure agreement barring her from going public about the affair. Cohen claims he did nothing wrong and says he only acted to protect the president’s reputation from being damaged by false accusations.
FBI agents had instigated a raid on Cohen’s office, his home residence, and the Loews Regency hotel room where he had been staying, based on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is currently investigating the Trump campaign over allegations that it colluded with Russian officials to win the 2016 election. Although Cohen’s name has been linked to the special counsel’s investigation — the Washington Post reported in early March that Mueller had “requested documents and interviewed witnesses about incidents involving Michael Cohen” — Monday’s raid was the result of information Mueller gave to prosecutors in New York that was not central to that probe.
In a statement Monday, Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, called the raid “inappropriate and unnecessary.”
“[This raid] resulted in the seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients,” Ryan said. “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.”
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal also reported that federal prosecutors in New York had asked the president’s namesake company, the Trump Organization, to turn over any documents it had related to the $130,000 payment to Daniels. The Trump Organization did not immediately return the Journal’s request for comment.