Documents from FBI’s raid of Michael Cohen’s home have been released. I discuss on MSNBC with Stephanie Ruhle.
Bianchi discusses documents from FBI’s raid of Cohen’s home – Part 1
March 23rd, 2019
Stephanie Ruhle: We began with a whole lot of new documents and information coming out this morning and it is all related to the special Counsel and one of the Congressional investigations surrounding President Trump. Now, some of that information was released seconds ago. I have a great team here to break all of it down, but first I want to explain exactly what’s happening today. The House Judiciary Committee is sifting through tens of thousands of documents handed over as part of the committee’s broad investigation into obstruction of justice. Now remember, the committee reached out to a huge number of people looking for information. 81 in all, including the President’s two eldest sons as well as current and former associate’s chairman Jerry Nadler said, they have gotten a great response and even name-dropped Steve Bannon as one who had been particularly forthcoming. He says the White House on the other hand, giving them nothing.
Jerry Nadler: Ultimately, people have to respond to us unless the President, personally invokes and executive privilege, which is a rare thing. They have no immunity. They have to respond to us. Of course, the White House and executives, generally has been stonewalling the judiciary committee, not just on these documents, but they’ve been stonewalling generally.
Stephanie Ruhle: Now Steve Bannon himself did not weigh in on Nadler’s investigation, but he did speak about Robert Mueller and a brand-new interview with Sky News and while he predicted his investigation is going to come up empty, Bannon, he didn’t trash Robert Mueller himself.
Steve Bannon: I said from day one. If they name a special Prosecutor, it is what it is. You’re going to have to play by the rules. I think Rob Mueller, I think he’s a very respectable guy. He’s up, he’s a combat veteran, Marine Corps Veteran, is now in the FBI. I think he’s run this process now. It’s taken two years. I’ve said from day one if Roger Stone and Wikileaks is all you got on Russian collusion, then you have nothing.
Stephanie Ruhle: And there was one more big piece of news out this morning. The search warrant and other documents related to the FBI raids on the Presidents former attorney, Michael Cohen, has just been made public. A US District judge ordered Prosecutors to release them after requests from the media. Now some of that information is redacted, but we could still learn a lot including details about how the Cohen investigation began, what crimes were being investigated, and what information supported the judge’s decision to sign off on the raids. I want to bring in NBC News Investigation Reporter, and hopefully speed reader Tom Winter who is just sort of reading through these documents. Tom, what do you know?
Tom Winter: So, Stephanie, what we know is that this investigation into Michael Cohen began in the summer of 2017, in around the July and August, the special Counsel’s office was able to get a search warrant for Michael Cohen’s email accounts from that point forward they continued their investigation. Turning that over to the US attorney’s Office for the southern district of New York, the Federal Prosecutors here who eventually got Michael Cohen to plead guilty to eight specific counts back in August of last year. In addition to that, Stephanie, we know that, that, those emails and other information pertinent that investigation was trans, turned over rather, in February of last year. In April, of course, Michael Cohen’s apartment was searched but this is confirming reporting that NBC News and others have done over the course of the past a year or so, which is that this investigation originally came out of the special Counsel’s office. It was then brought in the Federal Prosecutors here in New York, Mueller’s team bringing in the Prosecutors here in New York to eventually bring forward that case. Of course, Cohen would later plead guilty to several, to actually one count in several instances of lying to Congress in November of last year. Stephanie, the search warrants for each specific address, including the safety deposit box. So, basically you have a search warrant for Cohen’s home, for his apartment, for his office. Some of the search warrants go over 260 pages. So, there’s a lot to read through here, but it provides a little bit of a timeline. That’s one of the pieces of information we’re hoping we’re able to get, which is the timeline of today. When, when did this investigation into the President’s former personal attorney begin? And so, we know that that started in earnest in the summer of 2017, carrying on by the special Counsel’s Office into early of 2018
Stephanie Ruhle: Okay. I want to bring my panel in Paul Charlton, a former US attorney, and Robert Bianchi, a Criminal Defense Attorney and Former Prosecutor. Okay, from what we know so far, why is it so important for us to get these documents? I mean, can we just wait for the Mueller investigation at this point? I, I’m not sure why it’s so pressing to see what’s in there?
Robert Bianchi: Well, having been the guy who lead a Prosecutorial agency, I can only say it’s not important, but it’s important for the point of public consumption. Everyone wants to know about it. And Stephanie, what I found really odd about what the judge did in this particular case is he said that no data it has from the campaign finance issues could go out because it could jeopardize a criminal probe. Yet, he indicates that the public interest in underlying subject matter that implicated the 2016 Presidential election is substantial. So, he’s going to allow these documents to come out. To me those are contradictory phrases, so God only knows what’s in these documents.
Stephanie Ruhle: So, here’s what I don’t get, Paul. At the time of the raid, the President said it was illegal, it was inappropriate. He said, oh no, I remember he wrote attorney client privilege is dead. Help me understand, attorney client privilege the fact that Cohen’s office was able to be raided and now we can see all those documents?
Paul Charlton: Well, certainly that’s a great question and let me take a step back and say that, that search warrant and one of the reasons that I think is important for us to be thinking about it now and your specific question about privilege proves the true independence of the southern district of New York. It takes a bold Prosecution office to execute a search warrant on any lawyers’ offices, let alone the lawyer for the President of the United States. If there is no true privilege, in many of these documents that were revealed and disclosed indicated that there was no true privilege because these were crimes were being committed, not legal advice that was being given and the privilege doesn’t stand. And the evidence that we’ve seen so far either in this affidavit or in Mister Cohen’s testimony before Congress, shows that there was no privilege here. The greatest Trump supporters right now will tell you that their fear is not so much from Bob Mueller and the special Counsel’s office, but from the southern district of New York. And this search warrant affidavit is more proof as to why it is the Trump administration should be genuinely concerned about this group of independent prosecutors.
Stephanie Ruhle: The greatest Trump supporters continue to call this a waste of time and a witch hunt. So, when Steve Bannon turns over hundreds, maybe it’s thousands of pages and, people are salivating saying, oh my goodness, he can be turning on the guy. Couldn’t he just be fooling Nadler here in saying, great, go through all this? There’s nothing there. I mean, Steve Bannon has been one thing and he stayed with the President, even when he wasn’t working inside the White House.
Robert Bianchi: I just had a case where they dumped 6,000 pages of documents and you go through 6,000 pages of documents and there was nothing in them that had any value to them whatsoever.
Stephanie Ruhle: Which could be the case with Bannon?
Robert Bianchi: Absolutely sure, it’s about the quality of the information that’s being provided. The mere fact that you’re presenting thousands of document, as long as it’s responsive to the subpoena doesn’t necessarily mean, Stephanie, there’s anything of value. In fact, it could be defending Donald Trump in certain instances. We just don’t know yet.
Stephanie Ruhle: Yeah. Well, if I’m Steve Bannon is telling Sky News, don’t think you’re going to find much. We’ll see, I wouldn’t want to be the person to have to go through all those pages. As Jerry Nadler said last night, Paul, the White House is stonewalling the investigation. That’s no surprise.
Tom Winter: It’s no surprise. But let’s remember too, Stephanie that this was, if you will, a polite letter request to turn over documents. The House Judiciary Committee has yet to use its most powerful tool, the subpoena. Let’s see how the White House and President Trump’s personal lawyer respond, once this request has the effect of law and the weight of a potential court order to turn over the documents, as well. That may change attitudes on the other side of that request.
Stephanie Ruhle: Well, we will soon find out, Paul, Bob, thank you so much.