The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Cohen Raid

Michael Cohen, attorney for The Trump Organization, arrives at Trump Tower in New York City, January 17, 2017. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

This is one of the rare moments in the Trump Wars where everybody is right. The raid on Michael Cohen’s office is a big deal. For much — but not all — of the MAGA crowd, this is the last straw, a rogue prosecutor violating the cherished rights of a citizen, never mind the president.

Meanwhile, the Resistance types think Mueller has found the Holy Grail-silver-bullet-kryptonite- whatever that will take down the president. I listened to Richard Blumenthal this morning throwing around words like “nuclear” and “seismic.”

While I think this is a big deal, I’m skeptical of both schools.

(I should also say I am very much open to correction from Andy McCarthy, David French, and the other legal beagles, because I am not a lawyer. Then again, I can see my reflection in a mirror.)

Here’s how I see it right now.

The fact that Mueller referred this to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York rather than fold it into his own investigation suggests that whatever he found may not be central to his probe. If Mueller had reason to believe that he had Cohen dead to rights on the “collusion” stuff, he probably wouldn’t have farmed this out to a different prosecutor.

On the other hand, the fact that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman agreed with Mueller’s interpretation and sought a warrant from a judge and that the judge agreed to grant one suggests that Cohen is in trouble.

And spare me the “Deep State” or “Rogue Prosecutor” talk. Berman is a Rudy Giuliani guy and was appointed by the Trump administration. To listen to Mike Huckabee, you’d think Mueller kicked down Cohen’s door like Mel Gibson in a Lethal Weapon movie. I’ve talked to several lawyers with DOJ experience. There are serious and strict guidelines against doing anything like this at the DOJ and FBI, particularly when the subject/target has been cooperating. They — and a judge — must have seen something significant to go ahead with this.

Back on the first hand, I think Hugh Hewitt is right that this is a politically unprecedented move to go after the president’s lawyer and, by extension, the president’s private papers. Which means that whatever warranted this had better be big enough and clear enough to the public to justify such a move, or a lot of people are going to have egg on their faces.

Update: Since I posted this, it was reported that Geoffrey Berman recused himself from the Cohen raid. Contrary to a lot of hand-waving from some readers, I don’t see how this materially changes my larger point. But it’s worth adding the clarification regardless.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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