BREAKING: US Treasury Department opens investigation into Stormy Daniels lawyer over bank records leak

Washington, D.C. (The Hill) — The Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating how Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti obtained confidential banking records concerning a company controlled by President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The inspector general’s counsel, Rich Delmar, said that the office is looking into allegations that Suspicious Activity Reports filed about Cohen’s banking transactions were “improperly disseminated,” according to the Post.

Avenatti on Tuesday went public with detailed claims about Cohen’s banking history, including allegations that he received $500,000 from a company controlled by a Russian oligarch in the months following the 2016 presidential election.

The payment was, according to Avenatti, deposited in an account for a company that was also used to pay Daniels $130,000 as part of her non-disclosure agreement weeks before the 2016 vote.

Avenatti also revealed that AT&T, the Swiss drug company Novartis, and aircraft manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries — all of which had business considerations with the federal government — had made payments to Cohen. The companies later confirmed the payments, which are under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Avenatti refused to reveal his source for this information and said investigators should reveal the Suspicious Activity Reports filed on Cohen’s account.

Such reports are filed if an unusual transaction of over $10,000 is made, and experts told the Post that Avenatti’s information could have come from a report filed by Cohen’s bank.

Banks often file such reports to detect for money laundering or other illegal behavior.

Cohen’s bank, First Republic, declined the Post’s request for comment.


‘MURDER-SUICIDE’: Former prosecutor calls out Giuliani’s legal strategy in Trump defense

Washington, D.C. (The Hill) — Former prosecutor Solomon Wisenberg compared former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s legal strategy to a murder-suicide on Thursday after Giuliani said in an interview that President Trump reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen the $130,000 paid to adult-film star Stormy Daniels to stay silent about their alleged affair.

“I liken it to a murder-suicide,” Wisenberg told CNN’s Dana Bash. “He metaphorically murdered the president, and committed suicide with respect to his own reputation.”

“It was an incredibly embarrassing interview. Look, when you’re representing anybody, much less the president of the United States, you to know that when you go on television, and you make statements on his behalf, that’s admissible in court. That’s an admission by an agent if President Trump ever went into court,” he said.
Giuliani, who recently became apart of Trump’s legal team, contradicted Trump, who previously told reporters that he was not aware of the payment.

“It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. They funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it,” Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday.

“He didn’t know about the specifics of it as far as I know, but he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this,” he said.

Trump defended the payment in a series of tweets on Thursday.



THE STORM RAGES ON: Trump defends Cohen reimbursement of Stormy Daniels payment; Says it was meant to stop ‘false claims’

Washington, D.C. (Fox News) — President Trump, in his first statements since lawyer Rudy Giuliani revealed overnight that the president reimbursed attorney Michael Cohen for a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, said the money was meant to stop “false” allegations and stressed campaign funds played no role.

The president put out a three-part tweet about the $130,000 Cohen paid to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to stay quiet in the weeks before the 2016 election about accusations of an affair.

“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump tweeted early Thursday.

“These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,” Trump added.

Trump continued: “…despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.”

The president was referring to a letter written and signed by Daniels in January, stating “with complete clarity” that allegations of an affair with Trump were “absolutely false.” Daniels also wrote, at the time, that rumors that she received “hush money” from Trump were “completely false.”

Trump, however, also said last month that he didn’t know about the $130,000 payment.

But Giuliani revealed Wednesday night on Fox News’ “Hannity” that Trump indeed made the reimbursement.

Giuliani, though, clarified Thursday on “Fox & Friends” that Trump “didn’t know the details of this until we knew the details of this” a couple weeks ago. He has said Trump thought it was to cover unspecified “expenses.”

Giuliani stressed that this was a personal payment and disputed any suggestion that it was an unreported campaign contribution.

“[Cohen] was trying to help the family. … I think he was just being a good lawyer,” he said.

“That money was not campaign money,” Giuliani also said on “Hannity.” “It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.”

Giuliani, who recently joined Trump’s legal team, added that the money was “funneled” through a “law firm and the president repaid it.”

Whether that argument holds up remains to be seen. A candidate is allowed to contribute an unlimited amount to his or her campaign. However, contributions are supposed to be officially reported.

If the payments were wholly personal, said Richard L. Hasen, an expert in election law at the University of California, Irvine, there would be no campaign finance violations.

But Giuliani’s argument that the payment was unrelated to the campaign could well be challenged. If it’s considered a campaign-related expense, the onus may have been on the president or his campaign to report it as a loan.

“The greatest significance is that it implicates the president, directly,” Hasen told the Associated Press.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning that if it’s “true” that Trump reimbursed Cohen, it’s a “crime” with “serious consequences.”

Cohen previously has said the money he paid to Daniels came out of his own pocket. Both Trump’s and Giuliani’s statements now seem to contradict Cohen’s account.

Cohen is currently under criminal investigation as part of a grand jury probe looking into his personal business dealings.


Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and Paulina Dedaj and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


STORM FRONT: Trump attorney, Stormy Daniels square off in court over FBI raid

New York, NY. — Adult film star Stormy Daniels will be present during a Monday court hearing for President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen in which Cohen is expected to challenge evidence obtained during an April 9 raid of his Manhattan office by FBI officials, says Daniels’ attorney.

“I’m going to be there at 2. I can announce that we got comfortable with a security plan last night for my client, she’s going to attend at 2 on Monday,” Michael Avenatti told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, is under criminal investigation as part of a grand jury probe into his personal conduct and business dealings.

Attorneys for Cohen have criticized last week’s raid by FBI officials of Cohen’s office and personal residence as “unprecedented” claiming the items seized by federal agents “have nothing to do with the probable cause” on which the warrant was granted.

In a letter penned to federal Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York on Monday, Cohen’s attorneys, Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison, argue the items seized by the feds are protected by attorney-client privilege.

“[T]here is a growing public debate about whether criminal and congressional investigations by the government are being undertaken impartially, free of any political bias or partisan motivation. It is in this climate that the Government executed an unprecedented search warrant—instead of using its less onerous subpoena power—upon the personal attorney of the President of the United States,” Cohen’s lawyers wrote.

“In the process, the Government seized more than a dozen electronic devices and other items that include documents and data regarding topics and issues that have nothing to do with the probable cause upon which the search warrant was granted in the first place.”

In response, U.S. Attorney Robert S. Khuzami of USAO-SDNY, says all items obtained during the course of the raid were justified and approved by a federal magistrate judge.

“These searches were carried out as part of an ongoing grand jury investigation being conducted by the USAO-SDNY and the FBI,” Khuzami’s motion argues, adding the judge “had found probable cause to believe that the premises and devices searched contained evidence, fruits, and instrumentalities of conduct for which Cohen is under criminal investigation.”

According to a New York Times report, some of the documents seized by FBI agents related to a $130,000 payment Cohen allegedly paid Daniels as part of a confidentiality agreement she signed regarding an alleged affair with Donald Trump.

“This is completely unprecedented. Prior to the execution of warrants at issue, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York had already intercepted emails from the president’s personal lawyer,” Cohen’s lawyers wrote. “They apparently executed the search warrants at issue here only after they searched the private emails between the President of the United States and his personal lawyer and realized that ‘zero emails were exchanged with President Trump’.”

When asked, Avenatti denied that Daniels’ presence at the hearing was intended to provoke Cohen, but added: “I think Monday afternoon could prove to be very interesting.”

“(Daniels’s presence is) intended to send the message that this is a very, very serious matter for her and she wants to make sure that the American people know that she’s behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as possible,” said Avenatti. “She also wants to ensure that she is heard and that she’s represented at the hearing.”



Meadows: Lawmakers ‘seriously’ considering charging DOJ officials with contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a stunning announcement Tuesday night, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, (R)-N.C., said some House lawmakers are “seriously” considering holding officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in contempt of Congress.

Meadows’ comments come in the wake of growing Republican frustration over DOJ officials’ failure to produce subpoenaed documents related to the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s a Judiciary Committee decision. They would vote it out and it would go to the House floor,” Meadows told reporters. “It is being seriously considered.”

The comments follow days of speculation over whether President Donald Trump will choose to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who ordered an FBI raid of the office of Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, and/or Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who last week signed off on the raid. Federal prosecutors were reportedly seeking information on payments made to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had affairs with Trump years ago, in exchange for a confidentiality agreement she signed during Trump’s 2016 presidential election.

Trump, slammed the decision to raid Cohen’s office during a press conference at the White House on Monday, has made no secret of his disdain for Mueller, who he feels is being one-sided in regard to his investigation.

Meadows, who has been a vocal supporter of the president, said that while he feels there is sufficient cause to fire Rosenstein, he thinks things need to be handled one matter at a time.

“It’s too early to put forth a case on that,” he said.




BREAKING: FBI raids office of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The FBI on Monday raided the Manhattan office of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen.

In a statement released by Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan confirmed the raid, which he said resulted from a “completely inappropriate and unnecessary” search warrant issued by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Today the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” the statement reads. ” I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

“The decision by the US Attorney’s Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary. It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients,” the statement continues. “These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”

According to a report published by the New York Times, a financial agreement signed by former adult film star Stormy Daniels regarding an alleged romantic relationship Daniels claims to have had with Trump more than a decade ago is one of the “many topics” being looked at by the FBI.

Daniels was reportedly paid $130,000 in exchange for signing the confidentiality agreement just days prior to the 2016 presidential election, an agreement that Cohen has publicly admitted to securing.

Critics claim the agreement violates campaign finance laws, an allegation that Cohen has vehemently denied.

Last week, President Trump addressed the agreement publicly for the first time, denying that he had prior knowledge of the payoff.

“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump said when pressed for details on the arrangement. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”

Last week, The Hill reported that Meuller was also seeking information relating to Cohen’s involvement in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen reportedly contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesman about moving forward on the project, but did not receive a response.

Negotiations about the proposed property came to a hault, say reports, in early 2016, during the height of Trump’s presidential campaign.

The raid on Cohen’s office, say sources, does not directly relate to the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian meddling with the 2016 presidential election.




TRUMP’S STORM: President fires back with legal action amid Stormy Daniels’ claim she was threatened over alleged affair

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Monday responded to allegations by adult film star Stormy Daniels that she was threatened to keep quiet over an alleged affair between she and Trump that took place more than a decade ago, prior to Trump’s presidency.

Brent Blakely, an attorney representing Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, sent Daniels a cease and desist letter Sunday evening following an interview the former porn star did with “60 Minutes” regarding the pair’s alleged affair.

In it, Blakely demanded that Daniels apologize for insinuating that Cohen was behind a threat Daniels says she received by a stranger in 2011, ordering her to stay quiet about her supposed tryst with the billionaire business mogul.

“A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,'” Daniels told Anderson Cooper during the broadcast. “And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.'”

Although she did not call Cohen out by name, Daniels insinuated that Trump’s personal attorney ordered the veiled threat in an effort to protect his client. In the letter, Blakely further ordered Daniels to refrain from making “false and defamatory statements” about Cohen in the future.

In an exchange between Daniels and Cooper during the “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels’ contended that the physical relationship she had with Trump was “completely consensual” and made it clear that she was “not a victim”.

Anderson Cooper: “You were 27, he was 60. Were you physically attracted to him?”

Stormy Daniels: “No.”

Anderson Cooper: “Not at all?”

Stormy Daniels: “No.”

Anderson Cooper: “Did you want to have sex with him?”

Stormy Daniels: “No. But I didn’t– I didn’t say no. I’m not a victim, I’m not–”

Anderson Cooper: “It was entirely consensual.”

Stormy Daniels: “Oh, yes, yes.”

In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Daniels said she had an “intimate” relationship with Trump in 2006 and 2007 but had signed a confidentiality agreement regarding the affair, which obligated her to keep quiet. Daniels signed the deal, which had been orchestrated by Cohen prior to the 2016 election, in exchange for $130,000.

Daniels now contends, however, that the agreement is void because Trump never signed it. Cohen has since threatened to fine Daniels $20 million in damages for violating the terms of the contract.

Meanwhile, Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti shot back last week against claims that his client was fabricating the story courtesy a cryptic tweet.

“If ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ how many words is this worth?????” Avenatti wrote alongside a photo of an unmarked computer disc.

While Avenatti refused to disclose the disc’s contents, he told CNN later in the day that the photo was a heads up to Trump’s attorneys.

“It’s a warning shot to Michael Cohen and anyone else associated with President Trump that they better be very, very careful,” Avenatti said.

President Trump, while admitting that he has met Daniels on at least one occasion, has not formally addressed her allegations.

Calls to the White House and to Cohen’s representatives for statement were each met with “no comment”.