An AP report on Tuesday, based on just-released court documents that were previously under seal, indicates that Robert Mueller was investigating Michael Cohen by July 2017. As AP points out, that was nine months before the federal raid on Cohen’s home and office.
More importantly, July 2017 was while Cohen was still serving as President Trump’s personal attorney. It isn’t clear how much or what kind of business Cohen was doing for Trump in 2017 and early 2018.
But Trump still referred to Cohen as his lawyer as late as 5 April 2018. The federal raid on Cohen’s home and office was executed on 9 April 2018. Presumably, he left Trump’s service on or shortly after that date. Rudy Giuliani said a month later that Cohen was no longer Trump’s lawyer. The Politico report at the link, citing Giuliani’s statement that Cohen no longer represented Trump, was published on 11 May 2018.
Although we had reason to draw some conclusions about this last year (e.g., that the investigation must have started at some point before the April 2018 raids), the extent of what it involved, in terms of time and scope, is eye-opening when the details come out.
The AP report includes a Scribd embed of the warrant application for the April 2018 raids, which cites prior warrants obtained in the case. AP highlights one of them:
The newly released records show that several months earlier, in July 2017, Mueller’s office got a judge to grant him authority to read 18 months’ worth of Cohen’s emails.
A separate CNN report clarifies that there were multiple warrants for retrieving Cohen’s communications in the ensuing months.
In all, prosecutors and the FBI received permission to execute four search warrants for Cohen’s two Gmail accounts and stored data in his Apple iCloud account in July, August and November 2017 — long before Cohen’s office was raided in April 2018 and he pleaded guilty in an illegal campaign contribution and tax prosecution led by Manhattan federal prosecutors.
Mueller also received approval on two separate occasions to track the numbers of Cohen’s incoming and outgoing calls.
The April 2018 warrant application shows the following citations:
As reflected in the April 2018 application, Mueller turned portions of the investigation over in February 2018 to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). The warrant applications starting in July 2017 show that Mueller and the SDNY team would have had access to the contents of Cohen’s emails going back to as early as 1 June 2015 (for one of the email accounts), and continuing through the dates of the warrant applications.
Cohen’s “prospective and historical” cellphone calls, including metadata surveillance and location monitoring, were included in warrants approved on 7 and 8 April 2018.
The American people are owed explicit, unredacted answers on what Mueller and the SDNY did with any of these communications that involved President Trump or his White House staff. It has not been established that there was any illegal activity coordinated between Cohen and Trump, whether directly or through intermediaries. The people are entitled to both ask whether Trump’s attorney-client privilege was respected, and to receive an honest, open-books answer — from an independent audit. The call by members of Congress for an investigation of Mueller’s special counsel operation is looking better by the day.