From AP News:
President Donald Trump has lashed out against special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, branding it “an attack on our country” and exhibiting mounting concern about the yearlong probe after federal authorities raided the offices of his personal attorney.
Caught off guard and furious with the encroaching inquiry, the president showed a flare of temper watching cable news coverage of the raid Monday afternoon, summoning lawyers Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow to get their opinion of what was happening.
Aides and outside allies described Trump as shaken and increasingly frustrated by the development, and they said his reaction had sparked discussion about whether the raid would usher an unpredictable new phase in how the president responds to the probe.
Trump vented from the Oval Office that Mueller’s investigators were “going too far” and conducting “their witch hunt” to undermine his presidency, according to three people familiar with the president’s views but not allowed to discuss them publicly.
Minutes later he publicly unleashed his sharpest invective to date against the sweeping investigation, calling the Monday search “a disgrace.”
“It’s an attack on our country in a true sense,” he said in the Cabinet Room, flanked by the nation’s top military brass, who watched the scene stone-faced. “It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
Trump let loose after federal agents pierced the protective bubble around him, seizing records from the offices of longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen, on topics including a $130,000 payment made to a porn actress who says she had sex with Trump more than a decade ago.
Cohen has been an ardent defender in Trump’s business, personal and political affairs for more than a decade — Cohen claims to have used a personal home equity loan to pay the adult film actress, known as Stormy Daniels — and the probe’s expansion into the president’s inner circle left Trump fuming.
The president didn’t bat away the idea of firing Mueller, saying people have advised him to take that action: “Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on — we’ll see what happens.”
President Donald Trump hit back at the FBI’s dramatic Monday raid on his longtime personal attorney hours after it happened with a blistering attack on the special counsel, federal investigators and his own attorney general.
FBI agents swooped in on the offices of Michael Cohen on Monday — seizing a trove of documents related to the porn star Stormy Daniels case and communications between the attorney and the president, in a dramatic escalation of Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe.
They took his phone, personal computer and bank records — and Cohen is now being investigated for both possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
This indicates that Cohen is being investigated for using a home equity line to borrow the $130,000 he paid porn star Stormy Daniels, according to Politico.
If Cohen did in fact lie to obtain credit from a ‘federally insured financial institution’, he could be charged with a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
And if the payment is found to be an ‘in-kind contribution’ to Trump’s campaign, as it came just days before the election, Cohen could be facing a second felony.
Violating campaign contribution limits is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Hours later at the White House, flanked by cabinet members who were there to discuss how to respond to a chemical weapons attack in Syria, Trump raged: ‘They raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning and I think it’s a disgrace.’
Trump called it ‘an attack on our country and what we all stand for’.
He said agents ‘broke into’ Cohen’s Manhattan office, although the search warrants were perfectly legal.
The president also called Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators ‘the most conflicted group of people I have ever seen.’
‘This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen. Democrats all, just about all,’ Trump said, although Mueller himself is a Republican.
Trump also went after Attorney General Jeff Sessions – whose decision to recuse himself set in motion events that led to the appointment of Mueller by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who is revealed to have permitted the raid after hearing from Mueller.
‘He should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have put a different attorney general in,’ said Trump, revising a longtime anger at the situation.
His admission that he would have replaced Sessions to head off the recusal could figure in Mueller’s ongoing effort to establish obstruction of justice.
Monday’s FBI raids on Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel room are the clearest sign yet that the president’s longtime attorney is in serious legal jeopardy. They also represent yet another threatening development facing Donald Trump after more than a year of investigations into his campaign and presidency—perhaps the most direct danger yet.
No wonder he’s lashing out wildly—calling the raids “a disgraceful situation” and, absurdly, “an attack on our country.” […]
That the investigation of Cohen was apparently referred by special counsel Robert Mueller to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York — a Trump appointee — is an early indication that at this point, the matter is not directly related to the Russia investigation. But that doesn’t mean Trump’s exposure is any less serious. Cohen knows where the LLCs are hidden. He’s been at the center of Trump’s financial universe for decades. If he is as exposed as he seems on the Daniels payment, one wonders what information he might be able to offer prosecutors — including Mueller — in exchange for a deal.
In addition, while the guilty pleas of Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, deputy campaign chair Rick Gates, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn were all significant, none of them directly jeopardized the president the way a Cohen deal would. If the FBI seized evidence showing that Trump directed Cohen’s payment to Daniels, Trump may also have committed a felony violation of campaign finance law. If Cohen and Trump worked together to come up with the scheme, they might also both be guilty of conspiring to commit a campaign finance violation. And if Trump (notwithstanding his recent denial) actually knew that he was the beneficiary of the nondisclosure agreement, he might be guilty of a separate offense — failing to report that asset on his personal financial disclosure form.
The president seemed to recognize the seriousness of the development immediately. He launched one of his most predictable and worrying tirades yet.