You’ve seen all the media time spent about how the FBI got into Michael Cohen’s home and office. Mr. Cohen has been the personal lawyer to President Trump for many years. The president labeled this as a “break in” and “disgraceful.” Is it? And how did the FBI get into Michael Cohen’s home legally?
I worked in courtrooms as both a prosecutor a defense lawyer for years. Here’s what had to happen before the FBI got into Michael Cohen’s home.
—They must get the okay of the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. That’s the chief federal prosecutor in the city where Mr. Cohen’s office/home were located. Beyond that, the FBI must contact the highest levels of people in the Justice Department in Washington for approval. All of these people agreed to the FBI’s proposal.
—The next step was to get a search warrant This is not a simple, quick process. A prosecutor prepares the warrant before it’s taken to a federal judge. The following things must be shown in the document:
1. The FBI must identify the crime they believe Mr. Cohen is involved with—in this case, fraud.
2. The FBI must list and specify exactly the evidence of the crime they’re going to look for and take if they find it.
3. They must explain to the judge why a warrant is necessary. The “no-knock” means the FBI must act immediately before Mr. Cohen has a chance to hide the evidence.
At this point, a federal judge reviews the warrant request with the reasons for it. Unless the judge is persuaded of all the above, he will not sign it. That’s how the FBI got into Michael Cohen’s home.
But it still isn’t over. After the entry, whatever the FBI seizes is listed in an exact description. They return that list to the judge for him/her to review. This assures the reasons for the warrant and what evidence the FBI told the judge they were after, were actually found and retrieved. It keeps the FBI honest.
What about President Trump’s claim the “attorney/client” privilege is dead? As in many human relationships, the law protects communications between a lawyer and his client. Law enforcement cannot force either the lawyer or client to reveal the content of that communication. But the FBI got into Michael Cohen’s home to take evidence of communication between him and the president.
What do you think? Is this fair? If it wasn’t about the president of the United States, would this have ever happened?