WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took to Twitter Tuesday morning to denounce the federal raid against his personal attorney Michael Cohen as “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT.”
“Attorney-client privilege is dead!” Trump tweeted shortly after 7 a.m., following up with a post that called the Department of Justice’s ongoing probe into his 2016 campaign and purported ties to Russia, “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!”
Meanwhile, Cohen, in his first interview since the raid, told CNN that the FBI agents who raided his Manhattan office, home and hotel room early Monday, were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful.”
Asked if he was worried by the raid, Cohen said: “I would be lying to you if I told that I am not. Do I need this in my life? No. Do I want to be involved in this? No.”
The purpose of the raid, according to a New York Times report, was to seize documents tied to payments made to two women — porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — who each claim they had an extramarital affair with Trump.
The Times reported Tuesday that the search warrant authorizing the raid, signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, calls for records related to the $130,000 payment Cohen made to Daniels in exchange for her silence, and payments made to McDougal, who has said she was paid $150,000 by the parent company of the National Enquirer to stay silent on her nearly yearlong affair with Trump. The chief executive of American Media Inc., the owner of the National Enquirer, is a close associate of Trump’s.
Cohen, in media interviews, has acknowledged paying Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 out of his own pocket, without, he said, consulting Trump. American Media has said they paid McDougal the money for contract work as a fitness columnist.
Prosecutors have not publicly disclosed the nature of the probe against Cohen, but his attorney Stephen Ryan told reporters on Monday it was based in part on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia probe.
On Monday, Trump railed against the raid, describing it as “an attack on our country,” and a “disgraceful situation.” He also criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe and allowing for the appointment of a special counsel.
Asked Tuesday if Trump had discussed firing Sessions, Rosenstein or Mueller since the raid, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she had not spoken with the president on the matter.
Sanders, responding to a follow-up question at Tuesday’s White House press briefing, said Trump “certainly believes he has the power,” to fire Mueller. She doubled down on the assertion after reporters noted that Department of Justice rules state that only the Attorney General, or in the case of the Russia probe, his deputy, Rosenstein, would have the authority to terminate Mueller.
“We’ve been advised that the President certainly has the power to make that decision,” Sanders said.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike, warned the president against firing Mueller.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, said Mueller “shouldn’t be removed. He should be allowed to finish his job.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in remarks on the Senate floor, called for legislation to protect Mueller, saying Congress must “make it clear that firing Mueller or interfering in his investigation crosses a red line and is a threat to our constitutional order.”