Politics

‘Chilling Effect’ Seen in ‘Outrageous and Unprecedented’ Raid on Trump Lawyer

Harmeet Dhillon, Solomon Wisenberg condemn FBI's 'outstandingly aggressive' seizure of Michael Cohen's communications with the president

“Outrageous and unprecedented” raids by the FBI on the home, office and hotel room of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, will have “a chilling effect” on the chief executive, attorney Harmeet Dhillon warned Monday on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”

The raids reportedly were carried out by FBI agents to seize documents regarding Cohen’s communications with Trump, based upon a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller and approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, a Trump appointee, recused himself from the case.

The agents also sought to obtain documents specifically relating to Cohen’s payments given to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have engaged in an affair with Trump during his marriage to Melania Trump.

Dhillon, founder of the Dhillon Law Group Inc. and Republican National Committeewoman for California, said it was “outrageous” for the FBI to seize “any attorney’s communications with his client. This is outrageous and unprecedented.”

Dhillon added that the FBI is “giving extraordinary attention to this. But the other thing is, the president is exposed right now because he’s missing one of his lawyers, and he’s been looking to hire a new counsel. Who wants to be the lawyer who has their life disrupted because they happened to represent a client — and whether it’s the president or not — who’s in the crosshairs of the FBI?”

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“So this is a chilling effect,” Dhillon warned.

Solomon Wisenberg, former deputy independent counsel for Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater-Lewinsky investigation of former President Bill Clinton, told host Laura Ingraham that “this is an extraordinarily aggressive prosecution move. You’re only supposed to do it if less intrusive means like a subpoena are not available or won’t work.”

Wisenberg added, “It’s even more unusual — to my understanding from the reports — where they specifically were looking for some communications between President Trump and his attorney. That makes it even rarer.”

He added, “And to do it when the attorney is the attorney for the president of the United States is quite amazing. Now it’s too early for us to tell, you know, whether it’s right or wrong or valid. But I can tell you it is outstandingly aggressive.”

A clearly angry Trump blasted Mueller and the FBI officials following the raid Monday, saying the entire Mueller investigation is “a disgraceful situation” and “a total witch hunt” that represents “an attack on our country.”

Trump also renewed his criticism of beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself,” Trump told reporters. “Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in.”

Dhillon said she believed the president “made a mistake early on with the appointments that he made. I’m afraid that he needs to look a little closer to home. He’s had a lot of bad advice from the beginning of his administration on legal issues and on his legal appointments. And I think this whole situation is an example of that.”

Wisenberg argued that there is no indication “that Mueller did anything improper” in issuing the referral for the raid.

Related: Trump Rips Justice Department as ‘Embarrassment to Our Country’

“I don’t think there’s any indication that Mueller did anything improper unless you think if he stumbles across anything that looks like a crime, he should just forget about it and not tell anybody about it,” Wisenberg said. “So it’s very aggressive, yes. It’s not totally unprecedented. It’s extremely aggressive.”

But Dhillon argued the timing of the FBI’s raid on Trump’s lawyer is suspicious because the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is expected to release its review of the bureau’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and email addresses to conduct official government business.

“The timing of this is not accidental, as the other guests have mentioned. I think that the fact that the IG’s report is coming out soon at the FBI — that may guarantee some heavy scrutiny and potentially some prosecutions over there,” Dhillon speculated. “Maybe this team wants to distract away from that.”

The DOJ’s “double standard” between how it handled its Trump and Clinton investigations is “staggering,” she said.

“And this is potentially a constitutional crisis being set up here,” Dhillon said. “It is unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

This story has been updated to reflect recusal by U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York.

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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